Every year around this time, mango-philes rejoice as Fairchild Garden hosts its annual ode to all incarnations of the fleshy fruit. With more than 1,000 varieties of the tropical treat growing worldwide, there's more than enough to keep crowds busy all weekend.
But for those who attend annually, what's different about the 2013 celebration? Lots! From an international grower's summit to a decadent brunch to a Mango Medic -- you're bound to come away an expert. To get some details on the highlights, we spoke to senior curator of fruit, Dr. Richard Campbell.
While this event will run you a cool $125 a pop ($100 for members), it's worth every sweet cent. Obviously mango will be the main attraction, and notable local restaurants will be serving up items like mango and scotch bonnet braised lamb neck (Chef Daniel Serfer of Blue Collar Restaurant); 'Daily Melt' Virginia ham, brie & mango chutney (Chef Allen Susser); green & ripe mangos with cashews, coconut and burnt lime (Chef Giorgio Rapicavoli of Eating House) and lots of other goodies. The brunch starts Sunday at 11 a.m.
Mango Tasting Room
For $1, you can sample all kinds of varieties from Florida to Thailand to Mexico, then cast a vote for your fave. This was a challenging growing season, Campbell says, so they were forced to get more creative and resourceful about their mango selection. In the end, that made the quality even better. "The tasting room is going to be phenomenal. We're picking for that now, we've been picking for two weeks. The quality is just truly wonderful."
Khong River House (a Best Of winner) will be doing its first demo at the garden -- sweet sticky rice with mango by Chef Bee Piyarat Potha Arreeratn (11:30 a.m. on Saturday). Sure to be scrumptious. Other demos will include a"Collard Me Mango" salad and coco-mango chia pudding by Chef Camille Lamb of Whole Foods Market Coral Gables (12:30 p.m. on Saturday); a Thai Mango cucumber salad with mint & toasted cashews by Chef Amber Antonelli of The Naked Bite (11:00 a.m. on Sunday) and others.
Mango Grower's Summit
At this international event, growers from across the globe will gather to weigh in on the state of their favorite fruit. "We have a large delegation coming from Myanmar and a large group from Mexico. We have growers coming from Israel, Peru, South Africa, Guatemala, India, Pakistan, etc." Campbell says. If nothing else, the mango is certainly a jet setting fruit. THe summit takes place Saturday from 2:15 to 4:30 p.m., and costs $50 to attend.
Mango Beer and Wine Sampling
Sip some homegrown mango wheat brew (Shark Attack) plus tasty mango wine by local fave Schnebly's Redland's Winery (and Brewery). Plus, Eppa Mango Sangria courtesy of Whole Foods. Screw water -- these should make for the perfect refreshments on a hot summer day.
And those are just a few highlights to get your mouths watering. There'll also be a mangos of the world display, a mango auction, a Viva Mango documentary screening, various lectures and workshops, a yoga class, kid's activities and lots of other diversions.
In the end, the festival is all about education - and there's plenty to be had. As Campbell coined, "Not to give them a mango - but to teach them to grow a mango." Mango is better than fish any day.
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So get your learning (and eating) on this weekend.
The festival runs Saturday and Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. Admission is free for members and children 5 and under, $25 for adults, $18 for seniors 65 and up and $12 for children 6-17. Discounts available for anyone who walks, bikes or takes public transportation to the festival. Brunch tickets run $100 for members, $125 for non-members. Check out their website for details.
Follow Hannah on Twitter @hannahalexs.