Mangos – rich and exotic – bursting with flavor, and considered the “crown jewel” of Florida’s tropical fruits. The fruit is oblong shaped, larger than an apple, thick-skinned and colorful – often ripening from green to sunset yellows and reds. Inside it is yellowish-orange, firm and juicy – with a large seed in the middle.
Indigenous to India and Southeast Asia, mangos are grown in Florida, Texas, California, and Hawaii – with Florida being the largest producer in the U.S. market.
Florida’s mango season lasts from May through October, depending on the variety, but summer is generally thought of as “peak” mango season.
A Mango Road Trip
Summer is the time of year to enjoy mangos. One of the best locations to learn about Florida mangos is the Redland area of Miami-Dade County. It is one of the most prolific agricultural areas in all of Florida, 20 miles southwest of downtown Miami serving as the “city escape” to the country. The Redland region, near Homestead is named for it pockets of red clay found in the soil, but also known for its unique tropical and subtropical plants and fruit industry. Mangos, avocados, and specialty fruits – lychees, jackfruit, sapodilla, mamey sapote – are just a few species grown in this area.
So, for a full immersion Florida Mango Tour try a visit to four locations all within driving distance of one another – a nursery, fruit and spice park, a renowned fruit stand and finally a winery specializing in tropical fruit wine and beers. All will help you become more acquainted with the Florida mango while learning more about the wide variety of tropical plants grown in the state. You’ll enjoy eating your way through this tour.
Tour Stop #1: Pine Island Nursery
The first stop is a visit to the Pine Island Nursery in Miami (not to be confused with Pine Island on Florida’s west coast, which is also a well-known mango growing area). Pine Island Nursery is a 50-acre farm located southwest of Downtown Miami situated in an upland Pine habitat. The nursery will give you an overview of Florida’s mangos as well as other tropical fruits, nut and spice trees. Nursery staff will provide a varietal tasting and even a tour. They also feature bins filled with seasonal fruit for you to purchase – and now is definitely harvest time. And if you are interested in taking a plant home to grow your own mango, this is an ideal place to buy a tree and get good advice on growing your own.
Tour Stop #2: The Fruit and Spice Park
The Fruit and Spice Park is 37-acres of a one-of-kind tropical botanical garden operated by Miami-Dade County. Visitors can go on a guided tram tour (see times on the website) or go on their own. More than 500 varieties of fruits, vegetables, spices, herbs and nuts are grown and identified in the park. There are 150 mango tree varieties to see. Add to that 75 banana and 70 bamboo varieties and you are in for an exotic and international botanical tour. Guests can eat any fruit that has fallen from the tree or even try the “seasonal sampling platter” at the main center. Eat onsite at the Mango Café after your tour.
Tour Stop #3: Robert is Here Fruit Stand
“Robert is Here” is one of Florida’s most famous farm stands. The business was begun more than 50 years ago by Robert Moehling, when as a first grader he tried to sell family cucumbers from his roadside stand after school. When he failed to attract customers, he placed a sign out the following day that read “Robert is Here” and promptly sold out. Nowadays, Robert still stands behind the counter. In addition to specializing in tropical fruits (including mangos) he also sells unique bottled marinades, sauces, salsas and jams. You’ll definitely want to try the legendary fruit milk shakes. If you are there during the summer, you might try the mango milk shake – or will it be one of the other tropical flavors such as key lime?
Tour Stop #4: Redland Schnebly Winery
To finish off your day with a little libation head over to the local Redland Schnebly Winery, not far from Robert’s Fruit Stand, where the specialty is tropical wine and beer. Peter and Denisse Schnebly began their wine business by experimenting with wine production out of their garage creating wine from tropical fruit instead of grapes. You can enjoy their wine in the impressively appointed tasting room with a selection of daily wines, or consider the two mango wines (one called Mango Dolche). They even have Mango beer. The selection of tropical wines and beers is enticing – flavors of guava, lychee, carambola (starfruit), and passion fruit are just a few of the uniquely flavored offerings.