If you walk into the neighborhood grocery store and go to the produce section, you will see wonderful displays of apples, pears, nectarines and other delicious fruit and vegetables. Each has its proper place and is neatly labeled.
If you want an apple, you will see displays of 'Red Delicious', 'Granny Smith', 'Pippin', and crab apples, to name just a few. Crab apples do not make great fresh-eating apples, but they are wonderful for apple sauce. 'Red Delicious', on the other hand, aren't the preferred apple for pies or cooking. Each variety has a name, a different flavor and a preferred use. Mangos are much the same. If you were to walk into the produce section of a market in Bombay, Mexico City or Miami, you would probably see different mango varieties on display like apples are displayed here. Just how many mango varieties are there? Well, there are over 100 major and minor recognized varieties in Florida. We have over 30 in our collection at our home in Camarillo, and we are trying to acquire just the best ones.
Since the display of those nice mangos that we are looking at is just labeled "mangos," what kind are they? There are two ways to find out. First try asking the produce person. If they walk over to the display, pick one up looking at the little sticker on the mango and tell you it's a "Libra Mango," go to step two ("libra" means pound in Spanish). If there is a packing box in the mango display, look at the end of the box. If not, ask the produce person to check the produce cold storage room for a mango shipping box to see. Most of the mangos in Southern California stores come from Mexico. Mexico grows primarily four varieties for export: 'Tommy Atkins', 'Haden', 'Kent' and 'Keitt'. The box usually will have a mark indicating one of the above varieties. Since the first three look very much alike, the box is the best means of identifying which variety you are looking at.
Now that you can identify "that mango" you are going to purchase, we would like to suggest that you conduct a taste test and find out which variety you like the best. Our preferences are 'Kent', 'Haden', 'Keitt' and 'Tommy Atkins', in that order. 'Tommy' has the most fiber of the four. (None of the above would likely win in a taste test with the "top ten" rated mangos being grown in Mexico, Florida, Hawaii and yes, Camarillo, California.)
There are three reasons that the mangos mentioned above are in the store and the really good mangos aren't: shipping, handling and storage. Those are the factors that are necessary for a mango to qualify as a "good" commercial mango.
If you want mangos that are of truly exceptional eating quality, you will have to grow your own, so start planting those mango seeds. Grafted trees can also be obtained to accelerate the process of tasting really good mangos. (We will have some of the better varieties available beginning in the spring of 1996.)
Below is our "Top 20" list of mangos. They are rated for their eating quality. The reader is reminded that taste is very subjective and you may rate one variety as better than we do.
If you are currently growing a fruiting mango tree in California, please let us know. We are compiling a directory of people growing mangos and the varieties they have. We also plan to start a California Mango Growers Newsletter so we can share ideas and information. We can be reached by fax at (805) 389-1023, or by mail at Camarillo Exotics, 484 Mobil Avenue Ste 20, Camarillo CA 93010.
Tim and Darla are the owners of Camarillo Exotics, Camarillo, California based tropical and sub-tropical fruit growers. They are transplanted Midwesterners, Tim from Illinois and Darla from Indiana. Tim's interest in growing difficult plants was kindled by his father, Jack Thompson who could grow just about anything. Darla's interest developed after meeting Tim and learning some of the fascinating things that could be done with grafting.
Tim and Darla have a continually expanding mango collection, now numbering over 30 international recognized varieties. The mango cultivars they have been acquiring were selected on the basis of either exceptional eating quality, or having a proven track record as parent plants of outstanding progeny. They are also deeply involved in a program to develop new mango cultivars. The primary objective is to develop new mango varieties that are better acclimated to our Southern California weather. Tim and Darla are also conducting field trials of some of the mangos from their collection to evaluate their performance using the cultural practices the Thompsons have been successfully using to grow mangos at their home in Camarillo, California. In addition to their mango collection, the Thompsons are working with: Pineapples, Coffee, Star fruit, Cherimoyas, Bananas, Papayas (the 'Solo' variety) and Macadamia nuts.