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Guest Post: Mango Fever in South Florida

July 9, 2010

Guest Post by Gretchen Schmidt, writer – edible South Florida

Thanks to a long, cold winter, the mango season in South Florida is running late this year – backyard mangos are still small and green. But soon these fruits will be plump and ripe, ready to delight fans all summer long.

Some experts claim the mango is the most popular fruit in the world. It’s certainly a healthy choice – a rich source of vitamins C and A and dietary fiber – and resourceful folks make use of their backyard bounty by freezing what they can’t eat, putting it up in mango chutneys and preserves, and even drying it out for snacks.

Well-known Florida varieties include ‘Edward’, ‘Carrie’, ‘Haden’ and ‘Kent’. But according to Dr. Richard Campbell, senior curator of tropical fruit at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, there’s a new generation of cultivars that are resistant to disease, form small trees and provide tasty fruit. These include ‘Angie’, ‘Jean Ellen’, ‘Cogshall’, ‘Fairchild’, ‘Manilita’ and ‘Rosigold’. Fairchild develops so-called condo mangos – small trees that bear fruit within a few years, with judicious pruning and care.

Fairchild hosts one of South Florida best garden festivals, the annual International Mango Festival (July 10-11), a weekend that encompasses everything from fruits to trees to recipes to tastings and the world’s only mango auction. This year’s focus is on mangos from India, birthplace of the mango, and home to ‘Alphonse’, reputed to be the very best in the world.Folks like noted cookbook author Madhur Jaffrey and chefs Norman Van Aken, Allen Susser, Kris Wessel and Sean Bernal, to name a few, will prepare mango dishes like ceviche, gazpacho, green mango chutney and curries.

And certainly the mango lends itself to many delectable treatments, sweet and savory. Still, you need not be a cook at all to enjoy this splendid fruit. Some like it simply sliced and topped with a squeeze of tart key lime juice; others prefer it pureed with ice cubes, water and a bit of sugar for a smoothie; and others like it au naturel: sliced in two lengthwise halves, avoiding the pit, flesh scored into diamonds, then turned inside out to expose the juicy cubes. There’s no summer treat better than that.

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