MANGO: THE QUEEN OF FRUITS

Published in The Nimbin Good Times, July 2005

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David McMinn


At the beginning of each year, the mango season is always something to look forward too. This beautiful, luscious fruit may be eaten raw, in green mango chutneys, in daiquiris, in salads, with meats - in fact anyway you can think of. They are among the most enjoyable all tropical fruits. 

The original home of the mango (Mangifera indica) was eastern India, where it had been cultivated for at least 4,000 years. The Buddha was given a grove of mangoes so he could meditate peacefully in their shade, while the Mogul Emperor Akbar (1556-1605) was recorded as having planted an orchard of 10,000 mango trees. Amongst Hindus, the tree and its foliage played an important role in religious ceremonies and folklore. From India, the mango has spread to all tropical and subtropical regions worldwide and is enjoyed everywhere for its delicious flavour. 

The mango is a tropical tree, which will live a long and productive life, ultimately growing up to 20m. Mangoes cope well with most soil types, so long as they are well drained. If the soil is too rich and over fertilised, vegetative growth will be stimulated at the expense of flowering and fruiting, resulting in lower crop yields. M
ature mango trees are able to take light frost, but below about -3 oC will damage mature trees and kill small ones.

The ideal climate for mangoes is where there is a very pronounced wet season - 4 months of rain followed by a long dry season. In the Northern Rivers, rain can fall over much of the year, although spring is usually dry. This causes problems with fungal diseases, especially if it rains during the spring flowering season. Even so, once the rains have stopped, you can spray the flowers and leaves with antifungal preparations, which should allow a good cropping. It is very important to select varieties that have at least some resistance to the fungal diseases - black spot and anthracnose. 

When propagating from seed, it is important to know that there are two types of mangoes. 
Monoembryonic - only produces one sexual seedling, which may vary considerably from the parent plant in productivity and fruit quality. 
Polyembryonic - produces several embryos - one sexual and the others asexual, being identical to the parent tree. All these seedlings may be planted and nearly all will be same as the parent tree. Two of the better known polyembryonic varieties are Nam Doc Mai and Bowen, both of which can be propagated from seed and usually come up true to type. 

For monoembryonic varieties, grafted plants are available, although they can be quite expensive to buy - over $20 - but they are well worth the extra cost. Grafted plants may start producing flowers within the first year of planting. However, you must remove all the flowers for the first three years, as fruiting will drain the small plant of vital energy reserves. Daleys Fruit Tree Catalogue (www.daleysfruit.com.au) gives a good listing of the many mango varieties they offer for sale. Select an early, a mid and a late variety and you should have fruit for three wonderful months. Consider planting those varieties which have good resistance to fungal diseases, as this will save you much spraying.

Early Season. Glenn is a sweet, strong, juicy flavoured mango, with moderate resistance to Anthracnose and very good resistance to Bacterial Black Spot.
Mid Season. The Bowen variety (Kensington Pride) is the Australian standard variety, with excellent flavour, very juicy and aromatic. It is an excellent cropper, but it may yield irregularly in wet cold areas. Bowen has moderate susceptibility to Anthracnose and Black Spot. 
Late Season. Valencia Pride is believed by some to set the taste standard. The highly coloured fruit is large and beautiful. It is a vigorous and upright tree and consistently productive.

The best time to pick the fruit is when the green colour is fading, but the flesh is still firm. However, that assumes that you do not have to compete with the wildlife. Once the bats start eating the fruit, I strip our trees of fruit to get in early. Fortunately, mango fruit can be picked green and it will still ripen well. Any surplus can be frozen for re use several months later, although it will not taste as good as the fresh fruit. Alternatively you may choose varieties that produce fruit that may be eaten green (eg: Nam Doc Mai is the only green mango variety on offer from Daleys). The green mangoes are generally sweet without a starchy flavour. They can be grated in salads, pickled, soaked in sugar syrup, dried or salted. Mangoes are very versatile in the kitchen and may be used in a wide range of recipes.

The weed potential of mangoes in our area appears very limited. Even so, Daleys did report that there was concern about mangoes becoming a weed in some areas.

Plant several mango trees in your garden or house orchard and in a few years you can start enjoying your own delicious fruit directly off your own trees. Enjoy!