Palm Beach Florida Weekly

Mango Mania

‘TIS THE SEASON FOR THE SWEET TREAT



 

 

Get ready for a mouth-watering delight—mango season is here! The juicy, sweet fruit is ripening in backyards and orchards across South Florida.

The Sunshine State is the number one mango producer in the U.S., growing more than 200 mango varieties. Florida mangoes are available from late May to October, depending on the variety and season.

Alexander Salazar and Rebecca Principal-Salazar own Tropical Acres Farms, a small, family-operated farm in West Palm Beach.

“I was born in south Florida and grew up in Jupiter, so mangos were around me as a child. I loved them enough that I started my business when I was 22 in 2011 and have been growing them for a living ever since,” says Alex Salazar.

His farm operates on a historic property that has grown mangoes since the 1920s. “Palm Beach County is a great place to grow mangos, perhaps the best in the United States, specifically coastal Palm Beach County. In the coastal zone, we occupy an elevated sand ridge with terrific mango soil, and our proximity to the ocean helps keep our humidity substantially lower than much of the rest of the state. Our soil is more optimal than much of Miami-Dade and Broward counties, yet we aren’t so far north to be concerned about the threat of freezing weather impacting the trees.

Alexander Salazar of Tropical Acres Farms, a small, family-operated farm in West Palm Beach. COURTESY PHOTOS

Alexander Salazar of Tropical Acres Farms, a small, family-operated farm in West Palm Beach. COURTESY PHOTOS

Salazar says they have the largest private mango collection in America. Over the years, they have collected more than 330 cultivars of mangos and are still planting more.

Alex and his wife Rebecca work their mango farm seven days a week between April and September, “It is very hard work, both physically in extreme heat index and mentally. Sometimes, it’s a 70 or 80-hour work week. This time of year, we often get home very late and eat very late dinners.”

“In addition to harvesting and selling thousands of pounds of fruit, we also operate a retail and wholesale tree nursery on site and sell scions/budwood. We sell our products on-site and ship them as well,” Salazar explains.

RIGHT: Rebecca Principal-Salazar checking on the mangos growing at Tropical Acres Farms.

RIGHT: Rebecca Principal-Salazar checking on the mangos growing at Tropical Acres Farms.

So, will this year’s harvest equal the abundance of 2023?

Salazar says his crop this year is slightly reduced from last year but still decent. “The crop in the rest of the state is extremely poor, one of the worst in recent memory, so we are very grateful and blessed for the crop we do have. We’ve already begun selling small batches of fruit and should have some in season well into August.”

Jonathan Crane, a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences professor and associate center director at the Tropical Research and Education Center, says many Florida growers are telling him mango output is down this year, “Some growers attribute their lack of yield to the weather during the bloom period, such as unseasonal rainfall and wind; others blame the intensity of pests and diseases attacking the bloom and flowers.”

Jeff Wasielewski, a commercial tropical fruit crops agent at the UF/IFAS Extension in Miami Dade, agrees, “This year, we had two big blooms, an early one and a late one during the season. Unfortunately, we had a lot of rain after each bloom, and that knocked off blossoms and set the stage for anthracnose, potentially killing off some of the young fruit.”

ABOVE: Tropical Acres Farms in West Palm Beach sits on a historic property that has been growing mangoes since the 1920s. INSET: Delicious and juicy mangos from Tropical Acres Farms in West Palm Beach. COURTESY PHOTOS

ABOVE: Tropical Acres Farms in West Palm Beach sits on a historic property that has been growing mangoes since the 1920s. INSET: Delicious and juicy mangos from Tropical Acres Farms in West Palm Beach. COURTESY PHOTOS

“Fruit production isn’t as simple as planting trees and watching them grow. Nutritional applications, disease control and prevention, and canopy management are all important tasks that occur outside the season. The plant nursery is an all-year effort and doesn’t have a defined season like the fruit does,” explains Salazar.

Wasielewski offers some advice for homeowners to set themselves up for mango success, “It’s always a good idea to keep your trees pruned to let in air and light. This helps with keeping disease down. If you want to acquire a tree, choosing the right location to plant your tree and choosing less disease-prone cultivars is another tip.”

He says homeowners should always keep a close eye on their mango trees. “It’s all in the fruit. It is as simple as looking up at the trees and seeing what held on. Fruit should be about the size of an old-school silver dollar or slightly bigger. There may still be some fruit drop, but what held on so far is in good shape.”

Tropical Acres Farms sells mangos and trees on site and also ships across the U.S.

Tropical Acres Farms sells mangos and trees on site and also ships across the U.S.

Crane says consumers can expect new varieties at the supermarket, “A whole host of older unique varieties and new varieties is being grown. Florida’s strength is growing unique, high-quality mango varieties not found in the major mango trade.”

His advice to new growers is, “With proper orchard site selection, careful selection of varieties to grow, and dedication to various marketing tactics, mango production in Florida can be profitable.”

And Wasielewski says while conditions may not be looking great for fruit this year, you can always look ahead for a bumper crop next year.

While the Salazars continue with a successful harvest season, they thank the Florida sun for helping them grow and produce the sweetest and most amazing flavored mangoes they say you’ll ever eat!

 

 

You can visit Tropical Acres Farms at 1010 Camellia Rd, West Palm Beach, 561-329-6066, tropicalacresfarms.com..

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