California's Keitt mangoes are real desert rats. They grow at Mecca in the Coachella Valley, where temperatures can top 120 degrees. But this doesn't bother the Keitts; they thrive in the blistering heat, bulking up to as much as two pounds apiece.

That's probably because the mangoes take in a lot of water. The heavy drinking doesn't dilute the flavor, though — they have plenty of that, as well as a beautiful fragrance. Because they remain on the branch longer, they develop full sugar content, so they're nice and sweet.

The Keitts are here now, and you can get them through September. This summer has been extra hot, which has sped up the growing process. In cooler years, the season lasts into October.

These handsome mangoes originated in the Middle East in coastal areas along the Indian Ocean. They were first planted in California about 15 years ago at Mecca, which remains the only place in the state where they're grown. The first commercial crop was harvested in 2005. This year's crop is 225,000 pounds, grown on a mere 20 acres. Each tree yields 25 to 80 mangoes, with the older trees producing the most. Melissa's Produce distributes 80% of the Keitt mangoes in the United States. To find out where to get them, go to this link or call (800) 588-0151.

Keitts are dark green, even when ripe. When they yield to gentle pressure, they're ready to eat. They need no embellishment, but if you're feeling creative, their luscious flesh is perfect for smoothies, blended cocktails or even ice cream, because they're fiber-free. Fruit plates and salads are no-brainers. You also could make your own Thai mangoes with sticky rice, a fresh mango tart, or this cardamom-flavored coffeecake.

Mango cardamom kuchen; Credit: Barbara Hansen

Mango cardamom kuchen; Credit: Barbara Hansen

Mango-cardamom kuchen

From: Barbara Hansen

Yield: 6 servings

1 (1½-pound) Keitt mango

1/3 cup butter, plus 1 tablespoon for topping

1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed, plus 2 tablespoons for topping

1 egg, beaten

1 cup flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/3 cup milk

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Chopped pistachios (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease an 8-inch square baking pan and set aside.

2. Cut the mango into two pieces by slicing down on each side of the center seed. Cut just inside the peel around each mango piece, then cut crosswise in slices. Hold the ends of the peel in each hand and bend them backward to release the slices, then cut the fruit away from the peel. Peel and slice off any pulp clinging to the seed.

3. In a mixing bowl, cream 1/3 cup butter and 1/3 cup brown sugar until well blended, then beat in the egg. Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and 1/2 teaspoon cardamom. Add alternately with the milk to the butter mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.

4. Spoon into the prepared pan and spread evenly with a spatula. Top with rows of mango slices. Spoon any remaining mango pulp evenly over the slices. Sprinkle evenly with the remaining 2 tablespoons brown sugar and the granulated sugar, then with the remaining ¼ teaspoon cardamom. Dot with the remaining 1 tablespoon butter.

5. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with pistachios if desired, and cool in the pan on a rack. Cut into squares to serve. Best served warm, so reheat if necessary.

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