Savoring summer's best fruit

Saturday, July 11, 2009

A perfect mango morning: hot and sunny with flavors ranging from spicy to sweet. At the 17th International Mango Festival, Saturday’s crowds found what they’ve waited all year for: mangos to sample, to taste and trees to buy.

Lines of taste-testers were busy sipping sugar and spice on toothpicks as they ranked their favorite mango flavors. Ann Parsons, director of The Kampong, found her favorite among the samples: Keitt. After that, she liked the Fairchild Emerald, then Osteen. Volunteer and photographer Lynda LaRocca put the Fairchild Emerald at the top of her list. 

In the Garden House, where 200 of the Fairchild Farm’s 450 mango cultivars are on display like gems in a jeweler’s case, Frank Neumann from North Miami Beach was busy taking photos of them. He bought a Jean Ellen mango tree to add to his collection, which includes Van Dyke (“tastes like syrup”), Nam Doc Mai, the San Felipe from Cuba, Tommy Atkins, Julie and Carrie. “Everything’s in pots,” he said. “I have a normal size yard.’’

His girlfriend Joan Waters grows Mallika on her Beach condo balcony.

Tinthu Lee and her son Shaiming Lee were toting mangos to take home while looking over the displays in the Garden House. Tinthu as come to the auction for the last two years, and she was checking out this year’s offerings. From Myanmar, Tinthu pointed out the Shwethinta mango from her native land. “It has a combination of fruit flavors,’’ she said.

Betty Eber remembered how, as a child in Cuba, she would take tiny, fiber-filled mangos and roll them around on a hard surface to soften them and make them juicy. Then, she said, she and her friends would cut off one end and squeeze out the juice right into their mouth. 

Senior fruit curator Richard Campbell and his brother Rob were among the experts answering questions in the Garden House. Most often asked: ‘What is this mango?’ Followed by ‘Why didn’t my mango fruit?’ And, says Rob, ‘Is this one stringy?’

 So, why didn’t your mango fruit?  Too much water and fertilizer, says Richard. Tough love means better mangos, says the expert.       

Ann Parsons, director of The Kampong,
tasted her favorite -- a Keitt!


Perfect mango morning on a
hot summer day.