Saturday, August 30, 2008

A Garden of Tropical Delights - The Nam Doc Mai Mango and Carambola

Every morning I fondle my fruits-in July the mangoes, then the avocadoes, and now the sugar apples. It 's a race to harvest near- ripe fruit before it is claimed by the bandits- "palm squirrels" (aka rats), ducks or, more often, wandering gardeners. I don't mind any of the above getting a few fruits, however when an entire season's harvest disappears overnight, I'm pissed.

My Nam Duc Mai mangoes are now gone from the tree, and it is now avocado and sugar apple time.

The Nam Doc Mai are among the worlds best mangoes, with a distinctive slight "S" shape, or hook, to them.

Completely lacking fiber, richer and sweeter than almost any dessert, with sometimes subtle tartness, they are highly prized.A ripe mango has a fruity aroma at the stem, and is slightly soft. I don't rely much on color changes with this cultivar. You scoop out the tender ripe orange flesh with a spoon, or slice it into wedges, and greedily use your teeth-there's no fiber, and some are soft as pudding! One woman compares a mango's succulent dripping flesh to "edible orgasms", another to "a lover's luscious lips". Who can argue with mango lust?

The mango season starts with new red leaves and yellow flowers.

Egret, Wood Stork and Mango Flowers
Many 1 inch mangoes start, perhaps 20% make it to maturity on my tree. Wild Muscovy ducks take just a few sampling pecks out of a few dozen or so immature mangoes, letting the rest of the fruit go to waste, so I put up a feeble fence. Seems to keep in as many as it keeps out. Oh well. Gardeners and others pilfer and save Nam Doc's for themselves, instead of selling them to grocery stores-I've never seen one make it to a produce shelf.

Nam Docs & a Neighbor's Round Mango
I've had the Ataulfo and Alphonse in Mexico, and tried over 60 other delicious cultivars, or varieties grown in Florida, with some wonderfully similar Brams, Okrungs, and Florigons. I've sampled varieties from the Caribbean down to Colombia, tasted her exquisite sisters in the Philippines and Malaysia, and Lady Nam Doc Mai holds her crown high-a gloriously succulent Queen of all the Fruits.

There's a lusty side to these fruits, and a dark side as well. I've seen male ducks, or drakes, peck a mango, and go mate with a nearby female or hen, both thrashing in the water, hen near drowning in the frenzied mating process. I've seen a drake nibble a mango, then attack a rival drake in the lake, stand atop the rival, and drown the rival in minutes. Serious stuff, these mangoes. We're talking aphrodisiacal mango lust, unbridled passions, and hot blooded murder..this is more than catnip to a kitty, here.
Buy a grafted mango tree, for best results. Water your tree as little as needed during fruit season, or you'll have a diluted taste to the fruit. My trees need fertilizer at least twice a year, as Florida's sandy soil needs some help. Don't fertilize during fruiting time, or the plant grows leaves and roots, instead of just succulent fruit.

My friends Raquel and Fred have a carambola tree that just keeps putting out several hundred tart green star-shaped fruits, that ripen into sweet orange stars. There's a touch of tartness at the outer tips or ribs of the stars, the last part to turn from green to orange. The fruit become much sweeter when allowed to turn their flesh and ribs completely to a rich orange, while on the tree. Competition with insects and two legged bandits wandering in the wee hours often precludes that optimal tree ripening and flavor. Juice them or eat them fresh. Aaaah!

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