Mango season is sweet and sour
IN BACKYARDS and orchards around the North Coast, mangoes are ripening quickly.
While it has been a highly successful year for many backyard growers, the commercial industry has experienced problems.
Garden guru Phil Dudman said while many plants were suffering from the extended dry weather, backyard mangoes had been producing bumper crops for the second season in a row.
"The conditions (for domestic growers) have been perfect," Mr Dudman said.
He said now was the time to harvest before the fruit fell to the ground, or was gobbled up by roaming flying foxes looking for an easy meal.
"I like to space out my harvest and pick them green, letting them ripen off the tree," he said.
"I pick them as soon as I start to see a blush of colour."
And with so many mangoes available this year, Mr Dudman suggests making chutney or freezing them by cutting off the cheeks, spooning out the flesh and placing them in freezer bags.
While home-grown mangoes have been in abundance, the bounty hasn't been so fruitful at the epicentre of the North Coast commercial mango industry around Hogarth Range, south-west of Casino.
Pioneer commercial grower Mike Coleman said hailstorms in December had damaged ripening fruit and, also due to some "diabolical" market conditions, most of the district's mangoes would be sold off locally rather than heading to capital city markets at premium prices.
"Last season we had a huge crop that got badly damaged by heavy rain late in the ripening period and this season a reasonable crop had the edge taken off it by the hail, meaning much of the fruit has ripened off with marks.
"I haven't had a real crop for, say, four seasons.
"This was a good season - generally dry with some late rain to fatten the fruit - but then we had a series of around half-a-dozen storms with ice in them, one with heavy, marble-sized hail.
"I tried to look after the crop immediately after that storm but marks have appeared on the matured fruit, which will take them out of the top grade."
Mr Coleman and other district orchardists grow Kensington Pride, R2E2, Honey Gold and Calypso varieties to cover the growing season and in good years the fruit, among the last Australian mangoes to appear on the market, can command good money as the market prices take a final hook upwards.
But not this year.
Because it was so expensive to pick and pack the mangoes, unless they could be marketed at a good price, the additional costs of getting the fruit to Sydney were hard to justify.
Mr Coleman said his crop was about two weeks from full harvest and local buyers and consumers would be the ones to benefit.
- Mangoes are susceptible to fungal diseases like black spot and anthracnose, making the flowers shrivel and preventing the fruit from setting.
- Fungal diseases are common in wet weather and can affect small fruit, causing them to drop off.