History: “Mangoes are thought to have their origins in the Malaysian Archipelago There are over 300 documented varieties in India, where they are regarded as the “King” of fruit. Mangoes were documented in Brazil in the 15th century but their arrival in the Caribbean is mysterious. Some believe that in 1872 a French ship carrying a cargo of mangoes was captured off the coast of Jamaica and the cargo jettisoned overboard. The mangoes floated to the shores of the islands of the Caribbean where they flourished. There is a wide variety of mangoes in the Caribbean. Everyone has favorites.”
Dorel Callender, A Caribbean Mom’s Table.
Local Cookbook Author, JNA Lifetime Member
Height of Mango Time: “There was a splendid profusion of fruit. The slender cylinders of St. Juliennnes hung from a grafted branch of a common mango tree in a backyard in town. Round and pink Bombays seemed to be everywhere —brimming calabashes in the middle of dining tables, pouring out of crates and tumbling onto sidewalks. Small and orange Number Elevens filled the market baskets at Crossroads, the baskets carried on the heads of women traveling to town from country. Green and spotted Black mangoes dotted the ground at bus stops, school-yards, country stores—-these were only to be gathered, not sold. The fruit was all over, and each variety was unto itself—with its own taste, its own distinction of shade and highlight, its own occasion and use. In the yards around town and on the hills in the country, spots of yellow, pink, red, orange, black, and green appeared between the almost-blue elongated leaves of the fat and laden trees—and created a confusion underneath”.
Michele Cliff , Abeng, describing mango time in high July in 1950’s Jamaica
Ploompf: As a small child this sound was music to my ears as I quickly took a short-cut past an eerily isolated place where a huge Bombay mango tree grew next to the grassy foot path leading to my way home.. It didn’t help that this short-cut would have already taken me past the nearby Pocomania yard and through a dark coffee grove with a hidden grave-yard. Ploompf, was the reward for my bravery, and the sound of a big, sugar-laden, crimson-colored mango dropping suddenly onto the soft dewy grass. At the height of mango season, so many sweet-smelling mangoes littered the ground beneath the tree that my concern was finding it from among those that the creatures had already claimed. I will always remember the sweet smell, the beautiful color, the indescribable taste and the feeling that it was my lucky day being in the right place at the right time to claim perfection.
Doreen Thompson, Esq.
Excerpted from: “Collards to Callaloo: Memories of Jamaica”
on growing up in Balaclava, St. Elizabeth
Just like Gold: Some years ago I was sitting on a patio at a hotel in Jamaica with a fruit-laden mango tree overhanging the patio when a beautiful mango fell near me. As a former track and field athlete, I didn’t realize I still had it in me, but I moved with unexpected speed to claim my prize which was acknowledged by a chorus of applause from other guests. I smiled in return and raised my prize aloft. Yes, forget the Olympics— at that moment, I had captured gold
Basil Buchanan, PhD
A girl, a Tree, and a Plastic Bag: Blackie mangoes are my favorite. Hands down, no questions. My grandfather had a tree up in the hills of St. Mary. Determined to have my own at my home in Spanish Town, I nurtured a seed until it grew into a large tree. Years after I planted that seed, I’d come home from school – 6th form – and immediately change out of my uniform. I would grab a plastic bag and just climb up that tree to hang out for a while. A long while. No homework. No responsibilities. Just me, my mangoes, and a plastic bag to put the peels and seeds in. I can’t wait to give my kids that kind of experience.
Founder of Irie Camp Jamaica, JNA Member
The Mango – Stuff of Songs, Poetry, and Books
“May, me dear,
Me free from care
Me head an heart is light
For now mango season on
Tonight is moonlight night
An everytime a mango drop,
An as me tek a bite,
Me mine run pon yuh an all,
Dem long-time moonlight night”
From Moon and Mango by the Hon. Louise Bennett-Coverley
So many Varieties, yet someone else always seems to have the sweetest? “The mango is constantly evolving. Every single mango seed caries the genus of more than one variety. As a result, we keep getting more and more types of mangoes to satisfy our mango palate. The Bombay, Julie, Sharon and East Indian are probably the most favoured in Jamaica… And mango season means using brain matter, dexterity, theft and any other means to obtain a mango. For no matter how you look at it, the neighbourhood mango tree always has sweeter mangoes than your own”.
Rosemary Parkinson, Nyam Jamaica, a Culinary Tour
What are your memories? Share them with us. E-mail us at mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wishing you fond memories and good health, and remember, your memories are your wealth.
Writer: Doreen Thompson, Esq.