The delicious, golden mango fruit has been called the ‘king of fruits’ because of its fabulous eating qualities as well as for its inviting aroma and attractive appearance. Thought to originate in India, mangoes are grown mostly in tropical or sub-tropical climates and are widespread across the north of Australia.
Mango farming areas in Australia include Gin Gin, Carnarvon and Kununurra in Western Australia then east to Darwin and Katherine in the Northern Territory and down the Queensland coast to Northern New South Wales. Most mango plantations are close to the coast in warm areas of high summer rainfall or where they can be irrigated from rivers.
Mango fruit is considered to be one of the so called ‘super fruits’ because of its high nutritional content and consequent health benefits. Rich in potassium, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Vitamin E, flavonoids, Vitamin B6 and minerals such as copper, zinc, calcium and manganese, this seasonal fruit does sound like a powerful and seductive anti-oxidant package!
The mango tree (mangifera indica) can reach a hundred years or more years in age and grow to twenty or so metres in height, although commercial growers keep their trees at a convenient height for picking by pruning them in such a way that the bearing branches are on the circumference of the tree for efficient harvesting and disease resistance.
Apparently there are many hundreds of mango varieties in the world, although I am familiar with less than a dozen. Most people know of and love the early fruiting Bowen mango, or Kensington Pride, juicy, mild tasting with smooth golden flesh. If you wish to grow your own mango trees, this is one mango fruit that will stay true to type when it is grown from seed, rather than from a grafted seedling.
The mango season can start as early as September and run through to April, with different types ripening throughout that time. Well known mango varieties include Keitt, Kent, Calypso, Honey Gold, Palmer, R2E2, Brooks as well as the Kensington Pride and sub-species such as the local ‘Peach’ mango, an early variety which often has two crops.
Huge mango trees line roadways and beaches along areas of Tropical North Queensland, probably grown from discarded mango seeds left by travellers, or planted deliberately by early settlers. What a bounty and marvellous welcome for our visitors to be able to enjoy luscious mangoes completely free of charge!
Mind you, a little care is needed to avoid the so-called ‘Turpentine’ variety, which also grows wild and is unpleasantly fibrous, tasting of - well – turpentine!
The new pale pink leaves of mango trees herald the flowers which blossom pale yellow in profusion all over their canopy but which are sensitive to early rains, which can spoil the setting of the fruit if they come at the wrong time.
Recently we picked boxes of perfectly ripe mangoes from trees on an orchard in Mareeba on the Atherton Tablelands for processing in our new dehydrator. They were of the R2E2 variety, huge fruit hanging pendulously on long stems, as is the nature of mango fruit, from laden trees which seemed almost too small to carry such a bountiful load.
Mangoes are at their best when eaten fresh and chilled – so only some of them got as far as the dehydrator! The flesh closest to the seed is usually the sweetest – and best eaten leaning over the kitchen sink.
If you are interested in making fruit leathers, frozen ices or mango juice, scraping the flesh from the seeds and blending it in a food processor before freezing or drying is also one way to ensure that none of the mango fruit is wasted.