A highlight of Miami’s annual mango season each July is Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden’s annual two-day mango festival.
Each year, Fairchild celebrates the mangos grown in a different part of the world. This year Hawaii took center stage. Richard J. Campbell, Fairchild’s senior curator of tropical fruit and a master of double entendre, says Hawaii “has a growing mango business.”
This year mango crops are abundant, significantly better than last year. Every mango season is different. This is one of the best growing seasons ever, says Campbell, due to last winter’s chill and spring drought, which encouraged blooming and helped the fruit mature.
The mango tasting
Festival visitors flock to the mango tasting, in which five kinds of mangos with varied flavor and texture are set out for comparison and contrast. The varieties offered for tasting change over the weekend. This year, the varieties offered for tasting at various times included Alfonso, Alampur and Malika from India; Champagne from Mexico; Fukuda, Mapulehu, and Perry from Hawaii; and Keitt, Kent, and Golden Lippens from Florida.
Tasters who had a chance to taste the Alfonso ranked it number one.
The tasting consumes thousands of pounds of mangos. Some come from the Fairchild Collection; others are purchased from local growers and importers.
Tasters pay a dollar to walk thought the tasting room, a miraculous place where bowls of mango pieces stay full, no matter how many people pass through. Each year a cadre of devoted volunteers sits peeling and cutting mangos for two straight days in an antechamber near the tasting room. Even when you are seated in an air-conditioned room, cutting mangos is messy, tedious, tiring work.
The Patel brothers come every year to help cut the mangos. Havesh, Rohit, and Sudhir (Sammy) Patel started volunteering at Fairchild when they all lived in Miami. Rohit now comes from Atlanta to join his brothers. Sammy is a South Florida farmer who grows rare fruits and vegetables.
The Sunday luncheon
For the past 12 years, Fairchild has hosted in the Garden House a popular Sunday mango luncheon with food provided by local chefs at self-serve stations across the back of the room. A huge mango display occupies the front of the room. Following the luncheon, the Garden house opens to the public for viewing of an expanded mango display.
This year, pastry chef Gail Goetch of Essensia at the Palms Hotel and Spa on Miami Beach served roasted mango with toasted key lime pound cake and mango passion fruit cream.
Chef Sean Benral of Blue Door Fish at the Delano on Miami Beach offered mango Belgian waffles with dark spiced rum; and mango compote with cream chantilly.
Chef Max Santiago of the One Group on Miami Beach offered mango stuffed crepes with banana caramel sauce.
Chef Tom Palo of The Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables served duck and mango steamed buns with Hawaiian mango slaw.
Catering chefs Frank Randazzzo and Andrea Curto-Randazzo, with Creative State Catering and Event Productions, offered Key West pink shrimp with a pancetta tart with mango citrus salad.
Chef Allen Susser served green mango and calamari poke salad.
Doing your own tasting
Roadside stands, farmers markets, and many conventional grocery stores offer local mangos. Ask them what variety they are selling. Many will know.
Prices vary depending on the size and variety. Mango prices to the consumer typically remain high. The most economical source of all is having friends and neighbors with more mangos than they can consume, who are happy to give away as many as you will volunteer to accept.
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