Visiting the Urban Garden and Poamoho Mango Farm

Friday, September 17, 2010


Today I am hoping to have my first Hawaiian mango. We are driving to meet Frank Suiso who will take us to the mango growers in Oahu. The sea breezes blow across Oahu Island making our drive quite comfortable. Some of the views remind me of Tairona Island in Colombia in the Pacific Ocean. In fact, I felt particularly at home among the coconuts lining the coast.

We have our first stop at the Urban Garden Center that has 30 acres in the middle of Pearl City. Jayme Grzebik speaks to us about the program. The Urban Garden Center is run by the University of Hawaii with the objective to educate the community including local schools and home owners to support urban agriculture.


Our tour revealed many volunteers working in different activities throughout the display. They have herbs, vegetables, ornamentals and tropical trees. They also have a fruit collection including mangos, citrus, star fruit, some sapodillas, canistel, caimito, black sapote,  a couple loquats, guava and more. 


I  recognized some of the mangos ‘White Pirie’ and ‘Nam Doc Mai’ that still had fruit hanging.

They work with Master Gardeners that provide good support for their program including answering questions on the phone. After the tour we drove to Poamoho to see the ‘Rapoza’ mangos.

The 'Rapoza' mango is a Hawaiian selection.  R. A. Hamilton and J. H. selected from it from an ‘Irwin’ seedling grown at the University of Hawaii's Poamoho Research Station in the mid-1970s. It produces large, attractive, excellent quality large red fruits weighing 25 to 35 oz. It is generally late bearing. The fruit mature over a long period from mid-July to October. It has good flavor, excellent disease resistence and good apereance.

As we drove to the north west of the island to visit Poamoho Farms, Mark explained that most of these areas used  to be sugar cane. The use of land changed  and new development started  creating small complex farms. No more than 10-acre plots are used  for farming now and the price of land is still very expensive. Labor is the other problem on the island. It is difficult to get people to the island to do the farming.  

The Pomolo Farms grow organic avocados and mangos. They supply local stores, including Whole Foods and small retailers. In mangos they have mostly 'Rapozas' (midsummer) and lucky me,  they where preparing an order of mangos when we arrived. Al and Joan Santoro, owners of the farm, cut a 'Rapoza' to offer us. He took us to the field to show his property. He has 7 different avocado cultivars to cover the season from November to March and the rest of his property is in mangos and few papayas.

We shared  some experiences about cultivars and I handed to him some of the mango budwood we brought from the Fairchild collection.

Arriving in Makaha valley a few mango orchards appeared and were dominated by ‘Haden’.  His property carries the name of Makaha Mangoes,  which is a broker company and a family business that supply mangos to Whole Foods and local restaurants. We grafted the mango budwood we brought to his property and we sampled some of his late mangos. 'White Pirie' and 'Lancetilla' were at the table.  

We discussed the potential of our Floridian cultivars for the area, including ‘Fairchild’ considered somewhat resistant to anthracnose and favored for humid areas.  ‘Haden' is still the dominant cultivar in Oahu, and dominates the backyards across the island.   

Most mangos on this island are grown in dooryards and home gardens. Although commercial production has been attempted, acreages remain small, and as a result there has been limited commercial success.