Collier County - Mangoes, known as the king of fruits, grow in many different places around the world and their color, flavor, shape, and texture vary wildly. Every year, during the hot and humid summer months, mango trees throughout South Florida become weighted down with the juicy, delicious fruit. Usually peaking in June and July, backyards, sidewalks, even the produce sections at our local grocery stores quickly become overwhelmed with mangoes.
First arriving in Florida from Cuba, in the late 1800’s, the mango industry took a while to really get going. Starting out tough and fibrous, it took a lot of cross-pollination to create the exotic delicacy we know today. It was not until the 20th Century, that business really began booming for mango producers.
Alphonso mangoes are highly ranked by mango connoisseurs for their sweetness, richness and creaminess. Some prefer a Glenn mango, with some tartness. On our little family farm, we cultivate Nam Dok Mai, a Thai variety that peels easily, isn’t fibrous, and tastes like mango ice cream. After being planted, mango trees begin to bear fruit in about three to five years, some even give a double crop. The most prolific mango trees are usually grafted.
These days, entire festivals are thrown in celebration of the over 500 different know. varieties of mangoes, complete with parades and mango eating contests. Due to the pandemic, these mango-focused events have been cancelled. Not to worry, however, as a keen eye and a quick drive through LaBelle will reveal many, many mangoes, some in public places. There is even a small tree near the Barron Library, though it is usually the first to be picked clean when the fruit is ripe.
But, mangoes aren’t hard to find, in mango season, in fact it’s often puzzling to try to to figure out what to do with the glut. They are all delicious simply peeled, diced, and eaten. Some of us prefer to chill them first. Mangoes make excellent jam, cobbler, muffins, ice cream and even taste great as a sweet and savory addition to salads, salsa, ceviche, and even curry dishes. Add some yogurt, milk and mango pulp, and you have a traditional Indian mango lassi that is both healthy and refreshing.
My family makes countless smoothies during mango season. We also make some tasty barbecue sauce, and a delicious marinade that’s great on fish or chicken. They can also be cut and frozen, sliced and dehydrated, and even canned.
Mangoes are rich in vitamin C, folate, vitamin A, dietary fiber, and many other nutrients. Because of this, it is thought they may aid with digestion, boost immunity, promote eye health and clear skin, and possibly lower cholesterol. But most people don’t consume them seeking health benefits, they eat them because they’re delectable.