After thirty years in Kauai Hawaii I have long stopped referring to seasons of the year as main landers do in the northern climes. Our seasons do not portend pronounced climatic changes as are seen above the 30th parallel. They are more subtle and can catch you by surprise when you glance at a calendar or hear from a sister that the kids are a bit overwhelming and how she can’t wait till the summer has ended. I tend to gauge seasons by organic changes in my surroundings and not by dates. Winters are defined more by the ocean, the monster waves begin invading our north shore 4-6 weeks before any winter solstice date. And summers for me are defined by the start of mango season in Kauai which begins in early June.
OK, I enjoy mango season so much that I greedily scan these large trees in early April. Observing flower production, with fingers crossed, that no late winter storm will send these delicate inflorescence to the ground. During a neighborhood drive in the west side community of Eleele, a concerned resident asked if my cat was stuck up in the tree. When I confessed to my interest in the tree, he replied, “Oh yeah, this has been one good tree for 35 years”.
For all of its stately presence in the landscape and its prized summertime bounty, the number of great trees has been declining. Surprisingly, it’s not due to disease or pests but the problem is the mango itself. After 20 years its size usually becomes a landscape problem, the tree can reach heights of 60 feet. With house lots here being typically small, the tree will easily overtake a yard in a single generation.
For those of us who view these growth characteristics in stride believe that the pleasure gained from the fruit outweighs any inconvenience. The flavorful golden juices, firm but yielding texture, and the fiber content, or lack of, have earned its reputation as the king of fruits and loyal fans. With names like Haden, Fairchild, Keitt, Rapozo, and Pope these hybrids have replaced the common mango found at old sugarcane camp sites around the island. They are known for their sweetness and their lack of fiber. Plant breeders have been able to retain the best taste and sweetness characteristics of the common mango and have eliminated the high fiber content. To aficionados however, even the annoying fiber that wedges itself in between your teeth is a minor bother.
My favorite way of enjoying is by chilling mango slices and keeping them in a bowl in the fridge. Currently the Haden variety, which is the most common of the hybrids developed at Universities and are presently in the Sunshine Markets around the island. It’s peach like texture holds up well in the refrigerator and is a welcome relief on these hot June days here in Poipu.
Pickled, fresh cut, or in a chutney this versatile fruit has been discovered in the last ten years by those in the western culinary scene. Tell us how you enjoy the mango or if you have a special recipe that you would like to share.