Mango History

Mangos orginated in Southeast Asia and India, where references to the fruit are documented in Hindu writings dating back to 4000 B.C. Buddhist monks cultivated the fruit and in fact, the mango is considered to be a sacred fruit in the region because is is said that Buddha himself meditated under a mango tree. The mango belongs to the same family as the cashew and pistachio nut.

Mango seeds traveled with humans from Asia to the Middle East, East Africa and South America beginning around 300 or 400 A.D. Mangos sold in the U.S. are grown near the equator in countries like. Mexico, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, Guatemala and Haiti.

Mangos have been grown in the U.S. for a little more than a century, but commercial, large-scale production here is limited.

Because mangos need a tropical climate to flourish only Florida, California, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico grow mangos. The United States Territory of Puerto Rico has been producing mangos commercially for the last 30 years. Currently about 4,000 acres of mangos are being cultivated for export, but the majority of this crop goes to Europe rather than the mainland United States.

In the Coachella Valley of California, around 200 acres of mangos are being produced, with about half of these being certified organic. Slow, gradual growth in mango acreage is expected in California, where the competition for suitable land is fierce. Mangos are susceptible to frost, and farmers who own appropriate land are hesitant to switch from tried and true crops such as grapes and citrus. In Hawaii, the estimated space devoted to mangos is around 300 acres and nearly all of this fruit will be sold locally.

Many mango varieties have been cultivated in South Florida, as part of a seedling program initiated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and spearheaded by David Fairchild, founder of USDA’s Section of Foreign Seed and Plant Introduction. The program focused on introducing mango varieties to the region, with the goal of producing mangos that could be exported.

Over time, new varieties were developed, and some of these were introduced to growers in other parts of the world. Today, many of the popular varieties of mango grown around the world were derived from this program in Florida, including the Tommy Atkins, Haden, Keitt, and Kent. In fact, the Haden was a seedling of the Mulgoba, a seedling brought to Florida by the USDA from India during the late 1800s.

While the mango industry in Florida thrived for some time after the mango’s introduction, its commercial acreage peeked at 7,000 acres in the early 1900s. The mango industry in Florida has since been diminished by freezes, urbanization, hurricanes and competition from other countries. Today, it’s estimated that less than 1000 acres of mangos are still in production, and most of these mangos are destined for local farmers’ and specialty markets. Meanwhile, backyard trees in Florida continue to thrive and bring joy to residents across the southern part of the state.

In addition to these backyard mangos, Fairchild Tropical Gardens, named after David Fairchild, continues to cultivate mango varieties and work with mango growers all over the world. Fairchild is known for its annual International Mango Festival, which draws thousands of mango lovers each year to its Miami-area location in a celebration of all things mango. For more information on David Fairchild, and the Fairchild Tropical Gardens, visit www.fairchildgarden.org.

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One Response to Mango History

  1. Nostalrius December 12, 2016 at 2:57 am #

    Really cool article. I read your posts fairly often and you always do a good
    job explaining the whatever topic you’re writing about.
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    Keep up the great work!

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