The Mango High Five

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Noris checking out Southeast Asian mangos  


Noris Ledesma, curator of tropical fruit at Williams Grove, has spent years tasting different kinds mangos, often 20 different fruit a day during the season, to school her taste buds in the flavors that range from sweet to tart.

Here’s her take (developed with senior curator Richard Campbell) on the five basic flavor types, each named for a region, a mango most representative of the flavor or the strongest tasting.

Myanmar type
These, such as Myatrynat, may have a citrus flavor, even occasionally hinting of pineapple. Found in northern India and Myanmar, the cultivar names include Shwethinta, Myatrynat and Pu Pyo Kalay

Pairi type
Several mangos are named for their similarities to the Pairi mango, with a strong aroma and acid, spicy flavor.  Noris says they remind her of flowers and potpourri. Cultivars are Pairi, Emerald, Jakarta and White Pirie.

East Indian type
These mangos are pungent or perfume-y, with a strong flavor just beneath the skin.  The first thing Indians do is bring a mango to the nose to test its aroma, says Noris. Cultivars include Carrie, Iman Pasand, Bangnanpalli, the beautiful pink-skinned Rose and the Jamaican Julie.

Alphonso type
Named for the distinctive and well-loved Alphonso mango of India, these mangos include Haden and Edward as well as Tommy Atkins, Cogshall, Keitt and Rosigold. These beloved mangos have the sweet, rich flavor and bold color that have traditionally appealed to American tastes.

Southeast Asian type
These fruits from the countries of Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam have delicate flavors and flesh that is without fiber. They are beautifully shaped fruit that fit comfortably in the hand. Cultivars: Nam Doc Mai, Cambodiana, Phimsen Man, Kheo Savory, Carabao and Ivory, a Laotian mango.

Try to describe the flavor type when you sample mangos at the International Mango Festival. The festival is July 11 and 12, with tastings from 9:30 a.m. to noon on Saturday, July 11. But come early, the quantity of tasting samples is limited.

If the garden’s mangos seem more flavorful than those from your back yard, it has to do with the growing protocols developed by Richard at the Fairchild Farm at Williams Grove. Too much water and nitrogen mask the flavors of mangos, diluting the deliciousness, the curators say. What do Fairchild’s expert fruit growers do? They use only 0-0-50 fertilizer, iron and no extra irrigation. Nitrogen comes from a light layer of mulch and rain.