Cold, dry winter set up a tremedous crop. Now … how do you best use the surplus
By Rochelle Koff, The Miami Herald
July 14, 2011
For mango lovers, this season is particularly sweet.
If you have a mango tree or two, chances are you've been scrambling in the heat to stay ahead of the squirrels, serving mangoes at every meal and lugging bags of fruit to work.
An unusually cold December and record dry season were the perfect recipe for "one of the better years," for the golden beauties, said Louise King, president of the Tropical Fruit Growers of South Florida. "It's absolutely wonderful for mangoes. They look like jewels hanging from the trees."
Their flavor is sumptuous, too.
"This year, they're prettier, they're sweeter," said Dr. Richard Campbell, director of horticulture for Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Coral Gables. "Everything about them is better because of the very, very dry conditions we've had."
"Last year, mangoes were almost nonexistent," said Barbara McAdam, urban horticulture program assistant for the University of Florida/Miami-Dade County Extension, who has five mango trees in her backyard. "We lost so many in the freeze."
While there are more mangoes this year, some of the fruit is a little smaller. "But not all trees are affected this way," Campbell said. "It depends on the variety."
Florida produces 40 to 50 varieties of mango, but the most common are the Tommy Atkin, Haden, Glenn, Floragon and Carrie. You can feast on luscious Kent mangoes in July and creamy Keitts in August.
Campbell oversees more than 600 varieties of mangoes at Homestead's Fairchild Farm, touted as the most diverse mango collection in the world. Fairchild's 19th annual International Mango Festival on July 9-10 paid tribute to Hawaiian mangoes, "some of the most flavorful mangoes you'll ever have," he said.
Like other brightly colored tropical fruits, mangoes are a nutritional powerhouse, with 100 percent of the daily value of vitamin C, one-third of the vitamin A and 3 grams of fiber in a 100-calorie, 1-cup serving. While late-bearing trees will be supplying us with mangoes through the summer and fall, you'll have to gobble up the current crop.
Now that the rainy season has kicked in, the fruit is maturing quickly, said Michael Orfanedes, a commercial horticulture agent for the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
Orfanedes advises anyone with a backyard tree to be on the lookout for black spots, signaling the fruit has a fungus called anthracnose. Pick the fruit before they fully ripen so humidity won't ruin them. "Put them by a window in an air-conditioned room," he said.
Some mango fans, especially those from the islands and Asia, go for the green ones. "Green mangoes are being promoted as a quality product," Campbell said. "There's a wonderful market for them."
Whatever type you prefer, McAdam can likely come up with a recipe.
"I cut them up and freeze them, dehydrate them and make trail mix. I make mango chutney, mango kebabs, mango upside-down cake," she said.
Still, one of her favorite ways to enjoy Florida's "ultimate summer fruit" is the simple, classic method: "Eat over the sink and let the juice run down your arm."
If you can't keep up with the bounty of your backyard trees? As Teresa Olyzck, University of Florida/Miami-Dade County Extension director, suggests, "You have to share them with the world."
But first, try them in these favorite recipes from The Miami Herald's files