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Fairchild's 24th International Mango Festival Features Cuban Varieties

If you misplace your farmer's almanac, there are two ways to tell when mango season has hit Miami: the sweet smell of fallen fruit, sizzling on sidewalks — and the arrival of Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden's International Mango Festival.

Every July, the famous fest brings mango aficionados from across the globe to Fairchild's paradisiacal grounds. And this year has a timely theme: Mangoes of Cuba. The 24th annual edition of the event runs Saturday, July 9, and Sunday, July 10, from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
So what differentiates Cuban mangoes from every other? "The mangoes of Cuba are a unique combination of tropical flavor and rustic genetic potential, waiting for their chance to shape the modern mango world," says Dr. Richard Campbell, Fairchild's director of horticulture and senior curator of tropical fruit. "In a few words, saborverdadero."

Unfortunately, Cuban mangoes aren't something you'll find in American stores. According to Campbell, most organized growing in Cuba disappeared with the arrival of communism. "Currently, the mangoes are grown in small plots and eaten in homes, locally, and in the tourism industry," he adds.

But no need to travel to our island neighbor for a firsthand experience — the fest will feature a variety of Cuban mangoes, including San Felipe, Prieto, Toledo, Filipino, Nolasco, and Mango Blanca.

As far as flavor, Campbell describes the Prieto as a combo of sugarcane and pineapple, with a slight finish of melon; the San Felipe as having a sweet and fruity body and a slight acid finish; and as for the Toledo: "It's best described as a sugarcane field in a thunderstorm — the embodiment of hot tropics."
Mango tasting will be available at samplings across the festival ($2 per person), and many Cuban varieties will be up for purchase in tree form as part of the curator's choice sale. The selection is well suited to South Florida, so you'll have fruit before you know it. 

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In addition to the tastings and tree sale, the festival is packed with tons of other mango-themed activities. Attendees can check out the Mangoes of the World display and learn about the thousands of varieties of this sunset-hued fruit; watch gardening and cooking demos from the likes of chef Allen Susser and chef Mariana Cortez of Bunnie Cakes; listen to lectures by mango experts like Fairchild's Dr. Noris Ledesma; learn how to prune plants from mango medics; and bid on the rarest of fruits at the mango auction. 

Plus, there's Mangoville, where there'll be a variety of mango-flavored foods from local vendors, including beer purveyors, fruit libations from Schnebly Redland's Winery, and more. If you want more mangoes by the end of the day, you're definitely living in the right city.

The festival runs from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday, July 9, and Sunday, July 10, at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. Admission is $25 for adults, $18 for seniors 65 and up, $12 for children 6 to 17, and free for Fairchild members and children 5 and under. Visit fairchildgarden.org/mango for a complete schedule of events.

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