July 8th, 2010

For the Love of Mangos: A Visit to Fairchild Farm

I couldn’t tell you what type of mango I grew up eating. In fact, until I arrived in South Florida I wasn’t aware of the immense variety of mangos that exist and that are grown – albeit not commercially – right here at the Fairchild Farm in Homestead.

Formerly known as Williams Grove, Fairchild Farm is a 20-acre property in Homestead donated by Frank Williams. It’s the permanent home of Fairchild’s Tropical Fruit Program genetic collections, including 450 varieties of mango collected around the world.

Dr. Richard Campbell and Noris Ledesma, tropical fruit curators at Fairchild, led a group on a tour of the mango collection from where the fruit for the 18th Annual International Mango Festival would be harvested.

I had heard about the farm but thought it was open only to Fairchild researchers and horticulturists. Not so. Fairchild Farm has become an education and resource center that offers classes, summer camps for children, horticulture advice to regular folk and, best of all, hosts a year-round fruit market on Saturdays and Sundays. How I wish I would’ve known that before I ran all over Miami in search of local mangos only to come up empty handed.

Mango collection

Mango collection

Before the tour we sampled several mangos (heaven), including a wild mango that Ledesma peeled for us like a banana. It had an intense aroma and floral flavor. There are 60 types of edible wild mangos and one of those will be introduced this year at the festival (each year Fairchild unveils a new mango). “Just the aroma will be an experience,” said Campbell.

But the focus of the festival is the mangos of India — the birthplace of the fruit and a place where it’s deeply embedded in the culture. Indian mangos are unique with complex flavors and strong aromas. They’re also harder to grow and tend to, but Campbell’s goal for the festival is to educate growers on the intricacies of growing these mangos. This in hopes that one day we’ll be able to buy them here because, as he says, eating a locally grown mango is a completely different experience. (Read more about Campbell and Ledesma’s trip to India in their For the Love of Mangos blog.)

18th Annual International Mango Festival

Chef cooking demos, lectures, workshops, mango tastings, mango tree sales and more. Dont’ miss the edible South Florida tweetup on Saturday from 1 p.m. – 3 p.m. And gastroPOD Miami will be on hand to feed you.

Saturday, July 10 and Sunday, July 11 – 9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Fairchild Tropical Garden
10901 Old Cutler Road, Coral Gables

$20 for adults, $15 for seniors, $10 for children 6-17. Free for members and children under 5. Ride your bike to the festival and receive $5 off your admission. Bike valet will be available.

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3 Responses to “For the Love of Mangos: A Visit to Fairchild Farm”

  1. Wish I could have been there but was out of town. I wanted to see Madhur Jaffrey! Did you see her?

  2. I did and she was wonderful. I wasn’t that familiar with her but she’s a great speaker and storyteller. I bought her cookbook to try out a few things.

  3. […] close-up look at ingredients, maps and all.  Closer to home, Paula at Mango & Lime covers her love of mangos at Florida’s Fairfield Farm.  Finally, for dessert, there’s Eliana at A Chica Bakes.  […]

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