JULY 22nd is NATIONAL MANGO DAY!!!
Robert is Here for tropical fruit, mangos and legendary milkshakes
Ahhhhhhhhh, Mangos – rich, exotic, bursting with flavor and considered the “crown jewel” of Florida’s tropical fruits. The fruit is oblong shaped, larger than an apple, thick-skinned and colorful – with a ripening process that goes from green to sunset yellows and reds. The inside is yellowish-orange, firm and juicy – with a large seed in the middle. Just the verbal description can trigger a mango craving.
Indigenous to India and Southeast Asia, mangos are grown in Florida, Texas, California, and Hawaii. Drum roll …. with Florida being the largest producer in the U.S. market.
There are many varieties of mangos grown in Florida – both commercially and for home gardens. South Florida’s Dade, Lee and Palm Beach counties are the leaders in commercial crops, but mangos grow along the southeastern and southwestern coastal areas, as well as the south end of Lake Okeechobee and up to Merritt Island … and we have friends all over the Central Florida region with mango trees in their yards.
Florida Mango tree
Florida’s mango season lasts from May through October, depending on the variety, but summer is generally thought of as “peak” mango season.
Mangos are a highly desired Florida fruit and those who are fortunate to have their own trees will discuss fruit yields and taste for hours at a time. Trees are a prized possession and bitter feuds ensue if a mango bandit is discovered, be it an unscrupulous neighbor or wildlife stealing the fruit for its sweet succulent taste.
Savoring your Florida mango
Choose Your Mangos Wisely
Depending on where you are in Florida, and whether you grow them in your backyard or in an orchard, the best Florida varieties to grow really depend on your personal preference.
Pine Island Nursery located in Miami-Dade County, farms and specializes in mangos. Named “Pine Island Nursery” because of a stand of pine trees that the farm maintains, this place is a great resource for those who want to grow or just enjoy the tasty fruit.
Miami’s Pine Island Nursery identifies a large variety of mangos on its website
These are a few mangos that we were introduced to:
Glenn Mango: This is a deliciously sweet mango with a “mild, peachy flavor” requiring very little effort to grow. It usually ripens in June and July.
Nam Doc Mai or the Carrie Mango: These are known as the “condominium variety”, which is recommended for individuals who have constrained yard space. This type can even be planted in large tree pots. As the name Nam Doc Mai implies, it was introduced from Thailand. It is sweet, with a melon, peach and tangerine flavor, aromatic and fiberless. It usually ripens in June and July. The Carrie Mango is also ideal for smaller yard spaces and requires minimal care. It is extremely sweet with a silky flesh and is also an early summer mango.
Tebow Mango: (yes, named after the famed University of Florida football quarterback by a Florida nursery owner). It has been described as a “champion” with yellow and pink colors, absent of fiber and ripens in July and August.
Valencia Pride Mango: This is another fiberless mango, with exceptional flavor. It’s firm, sweet, and succulent with delightful aromas. Slender in appearance, it also ripens in July and August.
For a good look at the mango varieties, check out the Pine Island Nursery website.
A Mango Road Trip
Historic Redland Tropical Trail
Summer is the time of year to enjoy mangos. One of the best locations to learn about Florida mangos is the Redland area of Miami-Dade County. It is one of the most prolific agricultural areas in all of Florida and is only 20 miles southwest of downtown Miami … it serves as a “city escape” to the country. The Redland region, near Homestead, is named for its pockets of red clay found in the soil, but it’s also known for its unique tropical and subtropical plants and fruit industry. Mangos, avocados, and specialty fruits – lychees, jackfruit, sapodilla, mamey sapote – are just a few species grown in this area.
For a full immersion Florida Mango Tour, we suggest a visit to four locations that are all within driving distance of one another – a nursery, a fruit and spice park, a renowned fruit stand and, if you like to indulge responsibly with an adult beverage, a winery specializing in tropical fruit wine and beers. All of the above will help you become more acquainted with the Florida mango, plus you will learn more about the wide variety of tropical plants grown in the state. The bonus is you get to enjoy eating your way through this tour.
Tour Stop #1: Pine Island Nursery
Summer is Florida mango season
The first stop is a visit to the Pine Island Nursery in Miami (not to be confused with Pine Island on Florida’s west coast, which is also a well-known mango growing area). Pine Island Nursery is a 50-acre farm located southwest of Downtown Miami situated in an upland Pine habitat. The nursery will give you an overview of Florida’s mangos as well as other tropical fruits, nut and spice trees. Nursery staff will provide tastings and even a tour. They also feature bins filled with seasonal fruit for you to purchase – and now is definitely harvest time. If you are interested in taking a plant home to grow your own mango, this is an ideal place to buy a tree and get good advice on growing your own.
Tour Stop #2: The Fruit and Spice Park
Photo credit: The Fruit and Spice Park, Homestead
The Fruit and Spice Park is the only 37-acre tropical botanical garden of its kind in the United States. It’s operated by Miami-Dade County. It hosts over 500 varieties of fruits, vegetables, spices, herbs, and nuts, and other commercially important plant specimens from around the world which are identified throughout the park.
Guests are allowed to eat any fruit that has fallen from the tree. There’s also a “seasonal sampling platter” at the main center. If you’re hungry for something beyond fruit, you can also grab a sandwich or salad at the Mango Café.
Visitors can choose to go on a guided tram tour or walk around on their own. Guided tours are conducted every day at 11am, 1:30pm and 3pm, weather permitting. Park admission is $10.00 per adult, $3.00 per child 6-11, and children under 6 are free.
The Garden, its buildings and its tour vehicles are accessible to people with disabilities, with the exception of a few areas where the terrain is naturally uneven. Wheelchairs are available free of charge at the Garden entrance, on a first-come, first-served basis (reservations are not accepted).
Tour Stop #3: Robert is Here Fruit Stand
Photo credit: Facebook @robertisherefruitstandandfarm
“Robert is Here” is one of Florida’s most famous farm stands. The business started over 50 years ago by Robert Moehling. When Robert was a first grader he tried to sell family cucumbers from his roadside stand after school. When he failed to attract customers, he placed a sign that read “Robert is Here” and promptly sold out.
Nowadays, Robert still stands behind the counter. In addition to specializing in tropical fruits (including mangos), he also sells unique bottled marinades, sauces, salsas and jams. You’ll definitely want to try the legendary fruit milkshakes. If you are there during the summer, you might try the mango milkshake – or one of the other tropical flavors including key lime.
Tour Stop #4: Schnebly Redland’s Winery
Schenebly Redland’s Winery, Homestead
To finish off your day with a little libation head over to the local Schnebly Redland’s Winery, not far from Robert’s Fruit Stand, where the specialty is tropical wine and beer. Peter and Denisse Schnebly began their wine business by experimenting with wine production out of their garage. They created wine from tropical fruit instead of grapes. You can enjoy their wine in the impressively appointed tasting room with a selection of daily wines, or consider the two mango wines (one called Mango Dolce). They even have Mango beer. The selection of tropical wines and beers is enticing – flavors of guava, lychee, carambola (starfruit), and passion fruit are just a few of the uniquely flavored offerings.
Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, home to the Tropical Fruit Program
If you haven’t had enough, you may want to head north to Miami to visit the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. With 83 acres, it is one of Florida’s most famous tropical gardens. This vast selection of tropical plants, flowering trees and palms is a Florida gardener’s Mecca. Opened in 1938 and named for Dr. David Fairchild, it is one of the first to introduce the mango to Florida. As a result, the organization’s Tropical Fruit Program, which is dedicated to continuing Dr. Fairchild’s work and research, now has one of the largest tropical fruit collections in the world. (Fairchild Garden also has an agricultural station located in Redlands). This is a garden with year-round activities ranging from the annual International Mango Festival to impressive visiting art shows.
Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden is an excellent resource for mango cultivation.
Mangos ripening on the trees
Here are four recommended growing tips from the organization for growing your mango trees.
#1 Choose a healthy tree: A two-gallon container is a good size. A small tree will establish quicker and grow better roots to resist hurricanes.
#2 Plant Wisely: Depending on the variety, mango trees should be planted in full sun for best growth and fruit production. Select a part of the landscape away from other trees, buildings and structures, and power lines. Remember, mango trees can become very large if not pruned to contain their size. Select the warmest area of the landscape that does not flood (or remain wet) after typical summer rains.
#3 Water the tree until established – 1 to 3 months. Do not irrigate after establishment – as irrigation will increase disease and lower fruit quality.
#4 Fertilize lightly with low analysis fertilizers. No nitrogen fertilizers should be applied. Fertilize when your tree is active and do not fertilize during the winter. Use a 0-0-50 formulation, sprinkled lightly below the drip-line of the canopy three times per year. Fertilize 3 times per year with foliar micronutrients that include magnesium, zinc, and manganese.
For more tips, be sure to consult the Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden website.
Would you like to try Authentic Florida’s Fresh Mango Ice Cream? Here’s a link to the recipe: http://www.authenticflorida.com/articles/what-to-eat/authentic-florida-s-fresh-mango-ice-cream/
AuthenticFlorida.com was named Best Travel Blog at the 2018 Sunshine Awards.