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Tribute to the humble mango

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Tribute to the humble mango

Sunshine Coast settlers often brought with them a bag of mangoes to plant. AUDIENNE BLYTH recalls the days when the common mango ruled the backyards of the old Queenslanders.

The original wooden houses of pioneers may have long gone but the mango trees once planted next to them remain. New subdivisions have no space for a large sprawling mango tree.

The fruit is known as the common or stringy mango. It is well named, as the strings seem to be almost a foot long. Remember the haircut called the sucked mango look in the 1950s? Undoubtedly, this was a style with a long, stringy fringe.

A test of a good mango, while you eat it, is the quantity of juice that runs down your arm right to your elbow.

I cannot deny the pleasure of sucking on the rich orange flesh until the seed is dry. And I vouch for the flavour of the old common mango against the new varieties.

I seem to have lived my life next to old mango trees. My childhood home had mango trees and my present house has large and very old mango trees.

I recall my grandmother picking up the early windfalls and making stewed mango, adding what nature omitted – heat and sugar.

We are never at a loss as to what to do with the abundance of fruit. We eat it at any time of the day. We offer visitors mangoes. We freeze some for later on in the year. We make the best mango chutney. We call in those without mango trees to help us out.

Finally, we feed the last to the horses.

A “through fruit train” from the North Coast to Sydney and Melbourne ran from about 1920 until the 1950s. Farmers were able to send their produce to southern markets without it spoiling.

Among the cases of bananas, pineapples and passionfruit, I am sure the old common mango had its place.

A mango tree serves a purpose other than a fruit supply. The tree is not flammable and is certainly safer than a gumtree next to the house.

In summer, the temperature is at least 10 degrees less under a mango tree and its shade accommodates children playing or anyone taking a chair and whiling away the heat of the day.

A fernery can be established with no fear of the summer sun. As well, a mango tree is the perfect place to have a swing.

Before you rush out to plant a mango tree, which has the potential to grow to almost 10m and spread over half a house block, I must warn of the downside.

All night long, ripe mangoes fall with a bump or a crash on the tin roof of our house. Possums and fruit bats, with screeches and thumps, help themselves. Birds of all descriptions peck at the fruit, either on the ground or while it is still on the tree. Sometimes it’s hard to walk for squishy mangoes.

I’ve had burns from the sap and have to warn anyone about picking green mangoes. The green skin can produce what were once called mango sores, although the fancy new varieties seem to have put an end to that.

And I no longer see common mangoes in the shops.

Most likely you will find them free at a roadside stall in the hinterland.

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