By JOYCE COMINGORE
Special to The Breeze
MANIA-obsession or irrational behavior. Today and tomorrow, Mango-Mania is upon us. It is called Pine Island's Tropical Fruit Fair, but it long ago outgrew Pine Island. Organizers managed to keep it on Pine Island road, so now it's being held at the German American Club, 2101Pine Island Road.
MangoMania is an informal summer festival and celebration, Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is the king of fruit!
It seems only fitting to say a few words about mangoes and what might make them an obsession. Their perfumed peachy flavors make them very sought after. I have an extremely large Valencia pride tree growing on the front edge of my property. A great deal of thought went into choosing the exact variety I wanted.
When I first moved here, about 34 years ago, Haden was the main variety available and there were lots of old trees. Mangoes came to Florida over 170 years ago. Haden has a large long fruit, noted for being fibrous, but the best around for size and taste in that day. Valencia pride is an off spring of a Haden seed. People would stop and ask for my mangoes because they said they couldn't find Valencia prides. I directed them to ECHO where I bought mine.
This year, I had an incredible crop, and people were knocking at my door asking for some mangoes. Obviously I was having plenty to share, but they didn't understand my several household families and friends that needed to share in this bonanza. One lady I refused belligerently asked me what I was going to do with all of that fruit.
DUH! Peeled and sliced, the fruit packs nicely into baggies and freezes. There is no popsicle or fruit popsicle that equals the taste. I am addicted. Fresh is good, too. And I am most certainly not alone.
In years past, I have had very few of my mangoes. The tree produced a nice amount of mangoes, but being situated so close to the road, travelers coming by tended to help themselves. I rarely was left with any. So 5 years ago I started putting up "No Trespassing" signs, that didn't help much. Hurricane Charley blew it sideways to the north. My grandson took his truck and pulled it up to a 35 degree angle and I placed rocks against it to prop it up. These eventually dug into the trunk, and I removed them once the tree was growing again.
As with most trees and plants, this one turned upward and grew up, up and away. Now it's gigantic, humongous and fruitful. In June, those lovely morsels hung a beautiful bright red. What I couldn't get through to those people was, Valencia pride is a July through August fruit and they needed to yellow to be ripe. I was assured that they ripen off the tree as long as they aren't refrigerated. But, I was selfish. I did appreciate the people who had the decency to ask first. I promised a neighbor with a fruit picker the right to pick them and split them with me. He has done so, three times now, to the pleasure of my family and me, and it's not even August, yet.
Mangifera indica (mango) can live for hundreds of years. It began its growth in India, at least 400 years ago, and spread to warmer global regions. It is said, that the paisley motif in traditional Indian textiles is a stylized design derived from the shape of a mango. About 200 varieties grow in Florida, and each variety offers its own flavor, time of ripeness, texture, size, shape and color.
Normally, master gardeners don't recommend growing any fruit from seed, because they do not come true to either parent. But, I was told, do try with mangoes because there might be one in a million that exceeds its parentage. Such is the Valencia pride. The original tree was a Haden seed planted in 1937 on Mrs. Charles Brown's property in Miami, Fla. It first fruited in 1941, and over the decades was propagated throughout Flor-ida for commercial and home growing. Valencia pride is well recognized for its appearance, eating quality and excellent production. Its flesh is yellow and nearly fiberless, firm, juicy with a sweet flavor and aroma. The fruit weighs at least one pound and can get up to two pounds.
One of the fastest growing of the Florida mangoes, it is moderately fungus re-sistant. All in my calculations for the tree I wanted. I didn't consider the human frailty of temptation.
My first job in Cape Coral was at a nursery on Del Prado Boulevard. There I learned the hard way, mangoes are related to poison ivy, something with which I have had very serious and bad experiences. I would come home with blistery slashes on my arms from wearing sleeveless blouses for my outdoor work at the nursery and watering between the rows of trees. I even went to the doctor for a severe rash around my waist. She was puzzled, because it only went half way around my waist, but resembled shingles. Then, I remembered a friend giving me her huge supply of mangoes because she was going away for a week. Because of my allergy, we filled my T-shirt and carefully slid them into a paper sack. I washed my arms and hands, but left on my shirt. The oils soak through clothes, and the pants waistband saved me greater discomfort.
This is a malady of which I am not alone in suffering. Read with interest, Amy Williams situation in last Sunday's Tropicalia. Here in lies the madness- I still gather and eat mangoes, even to suffering for my addiction. Maniac mania!!
Thank a plant for our fresh air
Joyce Comingore is a master gardener, a national director for the American Hibiscus Society; aboard member of the Fort Myers / Lee County Garden Council, a Federated District 9 Tree Chairman and a member of the Garden Club of Cape Coral.