Local 'Mango Maniac' Wants To Create A Mango For The Future

Jul 13, 2018

There are a variety of mangoes found around South Florida: Haden, Mulgoba and East India, Julie. Experts say that the first mangoes arrived to the city in the 1700s--from pirates. Now the fruits are celebrated through mango festivals around the city, in Biscayne Park, Fairchild Botanical Gardens and Coral Gables.

How did this delicious, blush-red, tropical fruit get so popular in South Florida? 

Dr. Noris Ledesma, a self-described "mango maniac," has written more than 30 academic journals and books on tropical fruits. On Sundial, she shared tips on protecting mangoes from harsh weather, the genetic research she is conducting, and a bit of history. She will be speaking at the Fairchild Botanical Garden International Mango & Tropical Fruit Festival this Saturday and Sunday.

WLRN: Tell us why people in South Florida are crazy about mangoes.

Ledesma: Why not? It's so natural for me. We are a greater diversity of culture in South Florida. We have people from Latin America. So it is very natural for us to have that passion for mangoes.

When and how did the mango arrive in South Florida?

It comes from probably the 1700s. The first mangoes arrive with the pirates. They arrive first to the Caribbean and later on they arrive to all Key West, Tampa. There are many trees still here to tell these stories -- legendary trees.

What are some of the different kinds of mangoes that we find especially in South Florida?

That is the Mulgoba mango. The Mulgoba mango was planted in one of the backyards here in Coconut Grove. The mango matured and made fruit but the mango started changing. It was a combination of the mangoes that arrived by the pirates and the Mulgoba and the mango grew up from this Mulgoba tree was beautiful, red and fleshy. It is very common to find Haden mangoes [formerly known as Mulgoba] in different neighborhoods in our community like Coral Gables, Pinecrest and Coconut Grove.

Now you are kind of like a mad scientist with mangoes because you look for a better combination -- mango genetics. How do you do that?

Old fashioned genetics is just courting two mangoes. We are collecting the ancestors of the mango, the [great grandfather and the] grandfather of the mango that lives in Malaysia and Indonesia and we have them living together with the Florida mangoes. What we are doing is we are making a cage and we select one of the grandfathers with the Floridian mango and we are using bees.

In other words we are putting two guys together. If they are close enough they will make a combination and we use those seeds to germinate them again and we have a new generation of mangoes. The reason we are doing this is because we want to create a mango for the future.

We are now in hurricane season and I wanted to get from you just some ideas how people can protect their mango trees. 

The best way to do it is pruning. When you have heavy winds the first reaction is prune your mangoes. The main thing is you have to start early when your tree is still young and prune it in order to bring all that canopy down to the level of the ground -- like almost dressing up the trunk of the tree.