Saturday | June 24, 2017
About Us | Contact | Subscribe

Midsummer mango madness abounds

July is the height of mango season in Hawaii. Tourists and locals alike delight when the early mangos become available in May. By the time the later varieties are finishing up in October, folks will still be relishing this year’s delicious fresh fruit while freezing some for winter enjoyment.

Often known as the “king of fruits,” the unique flavor and fragrance of mangoes set them apart from other tropical fruits. A mature ripe mango has a complex, sweet taste that has wide appeal. Though the plant likely originated in the Indian subcontinent, it is now grown throughout the tropics and is eaten out-of-hand worldwide, as well as being included in the recipes of many cultures.

The University of Hawaii recommends a few of the many varieties they have tested for the best mango growing success here. All are of the Mangifera genus and Indica species. Most will become large trees unless they are classified as dwarf varieties or judiciously pruned. Julie mango trees are often available locally and will produce a lot of fruit on a small tree. Fairchild is another variety that can produce well, even if the tree is kept small.

The variety names are as colorful as the fruit they identify. Keitt, Rapoza, Gouveia, Exel, Harders and Ah Ping, as well as Momi K and Pope, are among those recommended for Hawaii farms and gardens. A little research can also reveal the color of the fruit inside and out, as well as the ripening season, when conditions are ideal. Most trees flower from December to April and some fruit as early as May. Most will fruit in July and August with a few varieties that will continue into late September or early October.

Our local fondness for mangoes leads us to celebrate this luscious fruit in a mango-only annual event. This year’s mango festivities will span several days and provide information on growing, selecting and enjoying mangoes.

Prior to the festival’s activities, the Hawaii Tropical Fruit Growers monthly meeting will focus on mangoes. That meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday at the University of Hawaii Kainaliu Experiment Station.

A week before the festival, the New Thought Center in Pualani Terrace off Highway 11 will throw what it is calling “Mango, Tango, Dance and Desserts.” For the admission price of $10 you can experience a dramatic tango dance show, dessert bar with many mango recipes and a silent auction. The funds raised during the event from 6 to 9 p.m. will help fund this year’s mango festival. For more information and tickets, call 887-1292.

July 28 and 29 have been officially proclaimed as Hawaii Island Mango Festival Days by Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi. This year marks the fourth anniversary of this free family event that offers mango information, food and entertainment from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days. The event will take place on the grounds of the Outrigger Keauhou Beach Resort on Alii Drive in Kailua-Kona. Each year the festivities expand and the attendance increases. This year promises to be no exception.

An amateur recipe contest and culinary demonstration will take place at 1 p.m. July 28. Entries must be accompanied by a form that is available online at mangofest.org. Try your hand at a recipe or come to cheer the cooks and taste their entries. Following the contest, Chef Hubert des Marais from The Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii will share his tips on using mangoes in many ways.

West Hawaii master gardeners will be on hand July 28 as well to offer free plant advice, while the Hawaii Tropical Fruit Growers will provide information and taste samples of many mango varieties. Those interested in horticulture will also be able to consult with experts about grafting and growing mangoes.

Hawaiian entertainers will perform both days with arts and crafts and fresh produce, including mango-themed desserts and drinks offered. The focus on July 29 will be a daylong medley of music and performing arts, including hula and belly dancing on the grounds of the resort’s Royal Garden.

The event is sponsored by the Sanctuary of Mana Kea Gardens. More information is available at mangofest.org or by calling Randyl Rupar at 334-3340 or emailing randyldna@earthlink.net.

Tropical gardening helpline

Gene asks: I am thrilled with the prospect of growing orchids at my new home in Kona. What can I grow and how do I grow them?

Answer: Perhaps because of their delicate beauty, orchids are often regarded as difficult plants to grow. They are not, especially in Hawaii. With a basic understanding of their preferences and ways to satisfy them, you can achieve success with orchids.

Most orchids are epiphytes, or air plants. This means that they do not need to be planted in soil. They are fine in a rocky media or one composed of wood chips where the moisture is held near the roots. They will even grow well when attached to a tree branch or stump. The roots need something to anchor to and a frequent supply of moisture. Many orchids grow best in partial shade and a humid environment. Be sure to do research on the best growing conditions for the specific varieties you select.

Flowering orchids are available in many local nurseries and shops. A wide range of varieties are available — some showy, some fragrant, all beautiful. Select ones you like and take them home to display.

Once the flowers die back, you may want to do what many kamaaina growers do, move them outside to a partially shaded spot, keep them watered and wait for them to bloom again.

Orchids are not unhappy in crowded quarters. You don’t need to repot them until the roots actually start to venture out of the pot.

Probably the best way to get information about growing orchids is to join one of the local orchid societies.

The Daifukuji Orchid Club is having its annual show and sale from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. July 22 at the Daifukuji Soto Mission Hall in Kainaliu. You can buy plants and learn about membership there. The club meets on the second Wednesday of every month.

The Kona Orchid Society has its monthly meeting schedule and information about becoming a member on its website at konaorchidsociety.org.

E-mail plant questions to konamg@ctahr.hawaii.edu for answers by certified master gardeners. Some questions will be chosen for inclusion in this column.

Diana Duff is a plant adviser, educator and consultant with an organic farm in Captain Cook.