How are there so many mango varieties in Florida!?
Have you ever wondered why there's hundreds of mango varieties growing in South Florida yet only a handful of varieties are found in grocery stores?
Firstly, mangoes originated in India and Southeast Asia. There's documentation of this fruit from 4000 B.C.
In the late 1800s, the Mulgoba mango was brought to Florida from India. In 1902 a tree was planted from the Mulgoba mango seed that produced what we now call the Haden mango.
Every time a mango seed is planted, a new variety is created. Planting seeds from desirable fruits is a form of selective breeding.
Grafted mango trees are the same variety as the tree their scions came from. Grafting is taping a branch (scion) from a tree to another tree (rootstock) and it is a form of cloning.
In the early 1900's a seedling program spearheaded by Dr. David Fairchild focused on introducing mango varieties to Florida with the goal of producing mangos that could be sold commercially.
Commercial mango varieties are selected for their look and ease of transport.
Many commercial varieties originated in Florida (Haden, Tommy Atkins, Kent, & Kiett) although most of the mangoes in grocery stores and restaurants come from commercial farms located outside the U.S.
Large scale mango farms grow acres of the same variety because every variety requires different levels of nutrients/care. Growing the same variety makes it easy for big produce corporations to know what to expect.
Nowadays, Florida farmers don't typically sell mangoes to grocery stores because land and labor costs a lot more in the United States so they can't compete with international mango prices.
People who grow mangoes in Florida are typically interested in either the history of the mango they're growing (mangoes remind people of the country their family is from) and/or the flavor & texture.
There are people still actively selectively breeding mangoes (and other tropical fruits) to cultivate the best variety as a way to leave their legacy to the world.
Lastly, there is an overall fascination with mangoes in South Florida because it's one of the few places in the U.S. that can grow them and many people collect and grow their favorite varieties for pure enjoyment.
Buy Florida grown mangoes here.