Mad About Mangos: These Luscious Favorites Are Easy to Grow
Jun 02, 2011 09:18AM
● By Beth Davis
Few fruit trees elicit as much adoration in Southwest Florida as the mango. Revered for its rich flavor, productivity and beauty, it is sometimes referred to as the “apple of the tropics,” although some feel this description does an injustice to the mango’s unique flavor and exotic appeal.
Native to subtropical and tropical lowlands, the mango tree originated in India about 4,000 years ago and has been grown in Florida since the 1860s, according to the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS).
The mango is a medium to large evergreen tree, from 25 to more than 80 feet high, with a symmetrical, rounded canopy, ranging from low and dense to upright and open. Its alternately arranged, spear-shaped leaves are often pinkish, amber or pale green when young, becoming dark green and leathery at maturity.
Naples master gardener Frank DeNardis, the area’s self-proclaimed “Mr. Mango,” due to his love of the fruit—more than 50 varieties grow on his property in North Naples—says the tree is easy to grow and adapts well to conditions in south Florida.
He recommends buying a healthy nursery tree and planting it in full sun for best growth and fruit production. Mango trees can become very large if not pruned to contain their size, so choose a location away from structures, power lines or other large trees. A newly planted tree should be watered every other day for the first week or so, and then just once or twice a week for the first few months. During the dry season, DeNardis suggests watering a couple of times each week until the tree is two or three years old and well-established. After that, it requires little to no maintenance.
To promote growth and regular fruiting, DeNardis also advises picking the fruit while it is very small, but only for the first year or two. “You want to build the strength of the tree; therefore, the tree’s energy is better spent on growth, rather than fruit production,” he explains.
According to IFAS, there are two main types of mango, the Indian and the Indochinese. The Indian cultivar, which accounts for most commercial Florida varieties, produces rounded, highly colored fruit that is susceptible to anthracnose, a fungal disease that can greatly reduce yield. Indochinese mangos tend to produce elongated fruit, usually with green or yellow skin, are tolerant of high humidity and are also relatively resistant to anthracnose.
DeNardis says hundreds of mango varieties are available in Southwest Florida, and many are appropriate for the home garden, making it possible to enjoy the fruit from late May through October. A mature tree can produce 250 or more fruits annually, which should be picked when firm and then allowed to ripen for several days before eating.
Depending upon the variety, mango fruits may be green, greenish-yellow, yellow, red, orange or purple, and weigh from a few ounces to more than five pounds. The edible flesh is pale yellow to deep orange and surrounds a single, large seed enclosed in a woody husk.
Mangos are delectable eaten out of hand, the most popular way to enjoy them, but the versatile fruits can also be frozen, dried, canned or cooked in jams, jellies, preserves and chutneys. The luscious flesh is also used to create refreshing ice creams and sorbets.
Fresh mangos are an exceptionally healthy treat, high in dietary fiber, low in carbohydrates and virtually fat-free. According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, they are also an excellent source of potassium and contain impressive amounts of vitamins A, C, E and B6.
Whether buying the fruit or planting a tree, it’s wise to be aware of the mango’s known hazards. Mango peel contains urushiol, the chemical in poison ivy and poison sumac, so exposure to oils in the fruit skin and leaves may cause contact dermatitis in susceptible people. Also, mango pollen may cause some individuals to experience respiratory allergies.
DeNardis adds what he says is one of the most important things to remember about growing a mango tree: “You are the boss of the tree. That means that you can control its growth by proper pruning, and its health and production by taking the proper steps from the beginning.”
For more information or to make an appointment to visit DeNardis’ nursery at 108 Viking Way in Palm River Estates, call 239-597-8359.
The richly flavored, aromatic mango is a surprisingly versatile fruit that can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch and dinner. These easily prepared recipes are healthy, delicious and a feast for the eyes, as well as the palate.
Mango Supremo Smoothie
2 cups mangos
16 ounces fresh-squeezed, organic orange juice
1-2 Tbsp gogi berries
Dash of cayenne pepper
Blend all ingredients together for creamy heaven—the ideal start to a busy morning and a refreshing treat any time of day.
2 mangos, peeled and chopped
1 cup fresh spinach leaves, chopped or shredded
1 red onion, chopped or slivered
2 tomatoes, chopped
2 tsp apple cider vinegar or any flavored vinegar (optional)
1 Tbsp olive oil (optional)
Combine all the ingredients and toss together in a large bowl. This is an ideal lunch or dinner salad or entrée; serve it with crusty, whole-grain rolls or bread.
1 cup water
Blend 2 mangoes with 1 cup water, and cut up the other mangoes and bananas. Mix together in a bowl and serve chilled.
Best Smoothie Ever
3 cups mango, chopped
1-1/2 cups papaya, chopped
1 to 2 cups fresh spinach (optional)
Water, as needed
Blend together and enjoy—this is one of the healthiest, tastiest smoothies on the planet!
1/4 cup pecans
14 cup walnuts
5 medjool dates, pitted
Mix all ingredients in a food processor and then spread thin in a pie plate. (Note: For a thick crust, double the ingredient amounts.)
1 or 2 bananas, sliced into thin rounds
1 mango, chopped into small, diced cubes
Handful of fresh strawberries, chopped into small pieces (can be pulsed in a food processor, but be careful to leave small pieces—don’t puree), plus 3 or 4 halved berries, for garnish
Handful of fresh raspberries
1/4 cup shredded coconut (optional)
To assemble the pie, place the banana rounds evenly on the bottom of the crust. Layer the mango cubes on top of the bananas. Smoosh and mash some raspberries into the strawberries, using your fingertips, and place this mixture evenly on top of the mango in the middle of the pie, leaving 2 to 3 inches around the edge (see photo). Sprinkle with shredded coconut, if desired, and add the halved strawberries as a garnish.
Refrigerate for 4 hours, so the pie is more firm when served. Expect rave reviews—it is fantastic!
Recipes submitted by Marianne’s Fresh Start. Connect with Marianne at 239-269-3808.