Did you grow up in Florida? You may have a soft spot for the classic Haden, deep yellow inside, rich and aromatic; ‘Glenn’, a mild early-season choice; ‘Irwin’, a productive, deep-red variety; and ‘Kent’, an aromatic, sweet mango, yellow with an appealing red blush. If you lived in the islands – specifically Jamaica – you may hold ‘Julie’ dear to your heart for its tart sweetness and pineapple flavor, or ‘Graham’, a small but prolific producer. In Southeast Asia, ‘Nam Doc Mai’ – pale, aromatic, with silky flesh – is a favorite, while Indian varieties like ‘Alphonse’ and ‘Mallika’ are spicy, complex and deep orange, and to many are the finest in the world – fighting words, of course.
Among the hundreds of varieties of mangos – there are around 400 alone at the USDA facility at Chapman Field – are specialized cultivars that summon up heavy notes of coconut, citrus, vanilla, even tart apple. We paid a visit to mango expert Dr. Richard Campbell’s Redland backyard to taste uncommon mangos he’s growing. While he sliced open fruits to sample, he talked about their attributes.
Campbell's collection includes:
‘Coconut Cream’ – This deep, rich, sweet mango is coconutty, silky-smooth.
‘Lemon Zest’ – A sister of ‘Orange Sherbet’, this cultivar has a good tart kick with hints of coconut and vanilla. “Arguably the best flavor among the new generation of mangos,” says Campbell.
‘Diamond’ – A deep rich Indian mango flavor in a Southeast Asian shell, with melon, sugarcane and Indian spice. “This is a winner. You do not want to miss the smooth, silky flavor and surprising citrus overtones.”
‘CeciLove’ – Named for his wife, Cecelia, this is (of course), his personal favorite mango. “It has citrus and berry tones with a tart kick.”
To test the sweetness of his mangos, Campbell pulled out a Brix meter – a refractometer – that measures the amount of light refracted in a liquid and delivers a number. For fruits, a higher Brix number means more sweetness. He squeezed a few drops of juice to get the Brix number.
Campbell and his sons have set up a Facebook page, Mango Men Homestead, to sell these limited-edition mangos and others, including:
'Ruby' – A seedling of ‘Julie’, this is a small, good-quality fruit with a brilliant color
'Kryptonite' – One of their celestial series
'Fairchild' – From Panama, rich, aromatic and spicy
'Angie' – Deeply sweet with tangerine-orange flesh and notes of apricot
'Pina Colada' – Small but packed with flavor and sassy personality
'Marble' – A seedling of 'Haden' with a sweeter and firmer flesh
'Diamond' has tones of melon and sugar cane, dripping in Indian spice
'Sunrise' – Combination of citrus, berries and melon with a kick of lime
'Sunburst' – Sister of 'Sunrise' with all the flavor and sophistication of Southeast Asia
'Saigon' – Straight out of Vietnam with a size and beauty to be cherished.
'Cogshall' – Selected on Pine Island in the 1940s, these have soft, juicy flesh and a spicy, aromatic flavor
You also may find a few of these mangos and other special varieties from small growers in South Florida, backyard growers or local fruit stands like Robert is Here, but not in supermarkets. While most of the world’s commercial varieties were developed here in South Florida, they are grown elsewhere for export, in Mexico, Brazil and Colombia. These uncommon mangos are strictly local – just for us to enjoy.