I was forced to eat mangoes. But could Miami’s Fairchild Tropical Garden actually make me like them?

Can a bounty of the best mangoes make a mango hater change her mind?Pedro Portal

Mangoes: repugnant peach wannabes or fruit of the gods?

That’s what we tried to decided during Miami Mango Week. Ninety-eight percent of you voted “fruit of the gods.” Me? I went the other way.

But if nothing else, I am wiser now. Here is what I learned:

  • Most people in Miami love mangoes and will call you out if you talk smack about them.
  • A lot of products are made with mangoes in Miami, and they’re not all terrible (although Publix, you’re killing me with that Mango Key Lime pie, not that its grotesque sweet flavor stopped my colleagues from doing a face-plant in it).
  • The original Haden mango tree in Miami is almost certainly still alive, and if we can build a time machine we can go back to when it was a seed and kill it.
  • My editor is sadistic as hell, because she signed me up for a mango tasting at the International Mango Festival at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. 

If you love mangoes you should definitely go to the mango festival, because everyone there seems really happy even though it’s 95 degrees with 92 percent humidity.

Noris Ledesma, curator of tropical fruit at Fairchild, knows more about mangoes than pretty much anyone on the planet, and she takes great delight in any attempt to convert a hater to her passion.

Ledesma loves all mangoes and makes a good point about the way this fruit thrills most of you. People like bananas, she says. But do you think people would get excited for a banana festival? Hmmm. Probably not.

The tasting offered five different types of mangoes: Alphonso (your beloved Haden is in that group); Paheri; East Indian; South Asian and Mayanmar. Yellow to orange, they gleamed up at me.

Was I converted? I’ll let you decide.

Five different mangoes at Fairchild Tropical Garden’s mango taste test. Five tastes of heaven – or hell?Pedro Portal
OK, here goes.Pedro Portal
Oh no. NO.Pedro Portal
Seriously? You like this? Hell, yes, said Miami.com editor Amy Reyes. Pass me the leftovers.

Here’s the truth though: the Nam Doc Mai mango, which tasted like papaya (some say apricot, Ledesma says), wasn’t bad at all. One out of five ain’t bad. [Editor Reyes, an avowed mango freak, reports that she loved four out of five, the lone exception being a slimy East Indian emerald mango.]

I can’t crave the fiber, the slime, the sweetness. But I did learn something important:

  • When you mix mangoes with alcohol, it’s delicious.

Mixologist Julio Cabrera put together three stellar cocktails: a martini, a mojito and a concoction with Colombian rum, mango puree, lime, agave nectar and cayenne pepper that may be the most refreshing drink ever made.

I guess this week wasn’t all bad.

Mixed with alcohol, mango transforms into a miraculous substance.Pedro Portal


The International Mango Festival continues July 2 at Fairchild Tropical Garden, 10901 Old Cutler Rd, Coral Gables.