by Amanda Rose Newton
While citrus may be the first fruit one thinks of when they think Florida (it IS on our license plate), mangoes have been grown in our state for just as long, with a few of the unique cultivars originating right in our own backyard: Merritt Island!
In fact, mangoes have been grown in Brevard for nearly a century due to our perfect mix of a subtropical climate, moist summers, and drier winters. Florida joins California, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico as the only states able to grow mangoes.
The Floridian Roots of Mangoes
David Fairchild, one of our nation’s most celebrated food crop pioneers, is credited with bringing the mango back to the United States from India and Southeast Asia in the 1800s. He was previously mentioned in our founding fathers of horticulture blog post and happens to be the subject of this month’s Boozy Botanical Book Club book, The Food Explorer.
The original goal of bringing the mango to Florida was to get a seedling program going in the state to eventually export out to other countries. Due to the softness of the fruit (which is botanically a drupe, like a stone fruit or avocado), shipping until recently was a difficult venture. Regardless, many varieties were produced right in Miami, including many popular ones you have probably encountered at the grocery store. Tommy Atkins, Haden, Keitt, and Kent all got their start in sunny South Florida!
Haden: The Mango Original
The Haden mango, of Indian origin, was the first to make its way up to Brevard county. The Osteen mango, named after the distinguished Osteen family, is a direct descendent and Merritt Island is credited with its birthplace in the 1940s. The Osteen’s purple-red coloration and round watermelon shape have made it a fan-favorite for decades. In addition to our own Osteen mango, the Haden also served as the “template” for several other now-popular varieties including:
• Bailey’s Marvel
• Tommy Atkins
• Valencia Pride
Mangoes: The New Citrus?
With citrus having its own set of issues (check out the blog on citrus for more information) and mangoes becoming more readily available at any supermarket, they are finally having their moment! Offering year-round shade, a picture-perfect canopy, low pest and disease pressure, and dozens to hundreds of fruits per tree, it’s high time mangoes became the new “citrus”.
One of the greatest joys of working at Rockledge Gardens is working with guests to find “their” mango. Fruit, like many of life’s greatest treasures, is a very personal preference– a choice best left to the individual.
Mangoes and Fiber
As a rule, fiber tends to be the dividing line for folks; some love it, some hate it, rarely does one lean towards indifferent. Do you like your mangoes with a little chew (I’m looking at you, Haden)? Is the juicer the better your modus operandi (See: Edward and Kent)? Small fruit (Gem) or big fruit (Keitt)? Can you get away with a 20 ft + tree or are you more in the market for a dwarf variety? Probably more internal probing than you were expecting in selecting a fruit tree!
Luckily, July is Tropical Fruit Month here at the garden, with tastings going on all month long! Mangoes and other tropical delights are on sale at the Farmer’s market this month, where you can try your fruit before you commit to buying a tree. Want to know more about a variety? Ask! We LOVE fruit here and will likely talk your ear off about it! Like all the best things in life, choosing a mango that you really love will make it that much sweeter.
To stay up to date with what we currently have in stock, be sure to check out our online inventory!