Mango-festo

Jamaican Julie has a dwarf stature and a tangy flavor. Graham comes from Trinidad and has yellow skin that darkens to a pink blush. Rosigold is silky and ripens early. Tommy Atkins is available anywhere in Florida. The Indian Alampur Baneshan has a complex, somewhat overpowering flavor that will appeal to the connoisseur. And Alphonso and Kesar are considered the king and queen. In tropical climes, like India, Indonesia, and the West Indies, there is no more popular tree than the mighty Mangifera indica. These tropical fruits come in an incredible variety. The color of their skins ranges from deep, dusky purple to pea green to sunset shades of bright yellow, orange, and rose red. The texture of moist mango flesh can vary from firm to fleshy, stringy to sopping. Some are tart and taste best in a raw slaw, with the green slices drenched in vinegar, salt, and hot pepper. Some are best used for cooking. Most are sweet and succulent. At this year's International Mango Festival, fans will come in droves to see, to buy, and especially to taste some exotic and carefully grown varieties of this popular fruit.

Mango lovers of all ages are welcome to celebrate the fruit with a bumper crop of fun events. The lush grounds of Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden will officially become Mangoville. Wander the garden house lawn, sampling fruity cuisine from regional chefs and gourmet markets, and check out the fruit-inspired art and gifts. A wide variety of trees will be available for sale, and at the Mango Auction, collectors can bid on rare heirloom cultivars. At the Mangos for Kids center, the little ones can enjoy a puppet show featuring the sweet edible. For folks with ailing trees, bring a sample of your sickly plant in a sealed plastic bag so the Mango Medics can make a diagnosis. Rather than let the birds and insects consume your bounteous harvest this year, figure out how to make use of your crop at Making Magic with Mangos. Learn how to prepare and freeze pulp, and make juices, jams, pickles, ice cream, chutney, and leathers.

This year's festival is dedicated to the Indian varieties of the delectable, juicy fruit, which can be difficult to grow in Miami. At the workshops in the garden house, wannabe horticulturists can learn from the pros with seminars like "The Mango in Indian Cuisine and Culture" and "The Indian Mango: Its History and Care in Florida." Indian actress and cookbook writer Madhur Jaffrey will give an insightful lecture about the fruits of her homeland and share recipes for chutney, curry, and sweet mango lassi. Jaffrey will also judge this year's Chutney Challenge, in which competitive cooks will demonstrate their culinary skills. Alas, this year's infamously fabulous mango brunch has sold out. Fret not, fruit fans -- you can lunch in fine style at the Veranda Restaurant and indulge your sweet tooth at the mango tastings and evaluations, where more than 200 fine, perfectly ripened samples are available for eating.