It wouldn't be too much of a stretch to say that Dr. Richard Campbell lives and breathes mangoes. The senior tropical fruit curator for Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden can tell exactly when a mango is ready to pick, assess its quality and tell you where it's from and what it's called.
You'll even find him on the cover of the latest issue of edible South Florida bathing in mangoes.
"A lot of people consider that to eat a mango you have to get in a bathtub because they're so juicy," he explains but quickly points out he doesn't eat mangoes that way.
Each year Campbell chooses the mangoes that Fairchild showcases at its annual mango fest, now in its eighteenth year and one of the few mango festivals in the world that uses all locally grown fruit. This year, the honorees are Indian mangoes.
"Without India we wouldn't be anywhere with mangoes," said Campbell. "Here in Florida, India gave us large genetic material. India is the prototype of a mango. When you think about a mango, you think about India in terms of the color and shape."
Indian mangoes are usually yellow and pastel colored and have a very
complex flavor compared to Southeast Asian mangoes, which have very
simple flavors, says Campbell. They're also very aromatic.
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While harder to
grow and not well suited for importation, Campbell is optimistic that one day Indian mangoes could be produced in South Florida as a boutique or niche crop.
Taste them at the festival and listen to Campbell speak tomorrow at the Mango Culinary Conference and at various lectures on Indian mango varieties and growing Saturday and Sunday (see the 18th Annual International Mango Festival schedule).
The 18th Annual International Mango Festival takes place on July 10 and 11 from 9:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Tickets are free for Fairchild members and children under 5; $20 for non-members, $15 for seniors 65 and up and $10 for children 6-17. If you ride your bike to the festival and use the bike valet, admission is $15 for adults and $8 for children.