By Glenn I. Teves, County Extension Agent, UH College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources
Mango is called the King of Fruits for good reason. Nothing could be better than an ice cold mango on a hot afternoon. Native to South and Southeast Asia, mango has been cultivated for over 4,000 years, and was introduced into Hawaii in the early 1800s from Mexico. Molokai has an ideal hot, dry growing climate, and the best area is a belt running from Kalamaula to Kamalo. Unfortunately, the further east you go, the windier it gets, and nothing can be more damaging to a potentially great crop of mango than wind blowing off flowers and fruits. On most islands, mango season runs from June to October with the peak in the earlier half of the season, but for Molokai if you look hard enough, you can probably find mango 9 months of the year especially around the Kaunakakai area.
Mango is not without its problems. Of the tens of thousands of flowers it bears, less than a fraction of 1 percent will actually make it to harvest. With the challenges of four to five months of growing from flower to mature fruit, they face serious diseases and other maladies along the way. Powdery mildew, a whitish fungus, favors dry cool weather and can destroy all the flowers. Anthracnose, a blackish fungus that favors wet weather, can destroy both flowers and even mature fruits. The mango weevil will bore into the fruit and seed through the stem or pedicel of the mango, ruining a good mango. Fruit flies, especially the Oriental Fruit Fly, will inject its eggs into a half-ripe or mature fruit and rot it. Another common problem is jelly seed, where the flesh around the seed gets translucent and will ferment, imparting a bad taste to a good mango. After all is said and done, it’s amazing we can still find edible mangoes on our trees.
Mango varieties recommended for Hawaii face rigorous testing at UH Research Stations throughout the state. Unfortunately, we have no research stations on Molokai. Some of the recommended varieties for Hawaii include Fairchild, Gouviea, Harders, Keitt, Manzanillo, Momi K, Pope, Rapoza, and Molokai’s own Ah Ping. These are considered regular bearers, and will bear a good crop each year. Others, such as Haden, have an alternate bearing habit and will bear heavy one year, with a light crop the next. Still, a great Haden is hard to beat. Some varieties, such as Exel, Mapulehu, and Pirie require ideal mango weather only found in Molokai’s mango belt to grow well. In wetter areas, only a few varieties will perform well, including Fairchild and Rapoza since they appear to have some tolerance to anthracnose. New varieties are brought in from Florida and southeast Asia, and some do very well in Hawaii, but until they’re tested over a long period of time, you really cannot determine if they will match up to what we already grow.
There are also many excellent unnamed varieties on Molokai, and part of this is due to the presence of the old Hawaii Sugar Planters Experimental Station at Mapulehu where there are about 40 acres of mango, including many rare Indian varieties, such as Mulgoba, Sandersha, Alphonso, Bombay Green, and others. Many residents have planted seedlings, and now have a new variety. Common mango is still a local favorite because it’s a heavy bearer, will bear off season, can be eaten ripe or picked green and made into pickled mango, a local treat.
A friend, Henry Pali Jr. mentioned to me that he believes mango was the fruit in the Garden of Eden because it made man go. Enjoy it while it lasts, because when there’s no mango, you’ll be craving for just one more.