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Mango growers pleased with early start to season

June 13, 2013
Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

Although it's only the second week of June, Pine Island grove owners are experiencing early mango harvesting due to early blooms.

Mango Factory owner Doug Flowerree said his family moved to Pine Island in 1955 and his father started the mango grove from scratch about 40 years ago. His father cleared the land and planted the trees on 25 acres. The grove now has approximately 1,000 trees.

Flowerree said his father was a great believer in spacing the mango trees a certain amount of feet apart, so it would have ultimate sunlight, as well as protection from diseases. He said with the trees planted at 33-foot intervales, it also protects them from moisture build-up that brings mold and mildew and promotes various diseases that can be promoted to trees close together.

The trees are about 15-20 feet high, so they can be easily harvested.

"We have to trim trees after the season to keep them at proper picking height and encourage proper growth and get the sunlight to produce proper fruit," Flowerree said.

Promised Land Mangos owner Jean Sapp's husband, Chris, a retired judge, purchased the grove 33 years ago in Pineland, which has 40 acres. Jean said since they had a few hundred acres of red grapefruit, they leased the mango grove to other people until 2009 when Chris began working in the mango grove.

"He has done an enormous amount of work," Jean said of the grove.

Jean said their mango trees are planted 25 feet apart to give them plenty of sunshine. An in-ground irrigation system also helps the trees prosper, as well as continuous hedging and trimming to keep them healthy.

"They have the sunshine, and we have a healthier tree and a better piece of fruit," Jean said.

Some of the trees were planted in 1950, while other young trees were recently planted.

"You have to do that regularly to keep your grove up," Jean said.

Mango Tango Tropicals owner Jim Ryan has had mango trees on his property for the past 18 years. His acre of groves has mango trees planted about 20 feet apart.

Weather is the biggest factor in whether they are going to have a good or bad mango season, according to the grove owners.

Flowerree said last year with the tropical storm hitting at the beginning of the mango season he lost about a third of his fruit.

"We were better the two previous years," he said, adding that mango seasons are always a product of the weather.

Unfortunately, the crop Promised Land Mangos had last year was affected by Tropical Storm Debbie in June. Jean said the storm put several hundred bushels of mangoes on the ground. Another storm with high winds went through the grove, which caused the Sapps to lose more fruit.

"We managed to have some for sale," Jean said of the mangoes left after the storms. "It would have been a good crop if we haven't lost so much."

She said that mango trees fare better in tropical storms and hurricanes because the groves are much more forgiving that citrus. The mango trees at Promised Land Mangos have come back very well from the storms of last season.

If the weather is quiet this year, they many have mangoes clear into September.

This year, on the other hand, has proven to be a better year due to the early blooms because of the warmer winter months.

Jean said they had their first bloom in December, which set a lot of fruit. Cold weather then took place which caused the trees to bloom again.

"We have multiple generations of mangoes on the trees," she said.

Jean said Smith mangoes are the main variety they grow. She said the Smith mangoes is a descendent from the Haden mango that was developed by Captain Smith.

The Smith, which is not stringy at all, dries well and freezes well because of the fiber content, Jean explained.

"This year we are very thankful and grateful for every single person that has come," Jean said of the season, which began three weeks ago when they began harvesting. "This year has been really awesome already and we have already sold."

The mango trees began blooming before Christmas this season Ryan said, which is why he has had such an early crop in his grove.

The mangoes take approximately 120 days to mature from the time it blooms.

Ryan said he began selling mangoes about two weeks ago to individuals who want green to make chutney.

"I've sold quite a few," he said.

Keitt mangoes, which normally do not ripen until September, have all been sold from Mango Tango. Another variety of mango, Beverly mango, is another late bloom, which Ryan said is also sold out already.

Valencia Prides, another variety of mango grown at Mango Tango, are currently being sold green to the customers. Ryan said they will probably be ripe in about two weeks.

"All of this is due to the warm weather, the reason why everything is coming in so early," he said. "It's because it was warm in the wrong periods of time in the winter."

This year Ryan said it is very strange because he has more than one bloom on his tree. He said some of his trees have up to three different blooms, which are producing three different sizes of mangos.

"The trees are all confused this year," Ryan said. "I think it's going to be a real mixed up season for mangoes. Some trees are vacant and no crop at all and other trees are full."

The blooming began at The Mango Factory in January, which were followed by other sets of blooms in February and March.

"We are going to have three different size mangoes on the tree providing they all run to maturity," Flowerree said, which will in turn extend their season some.

He said he will most likely start shipping mangoes this week, which include Haydens, Irwins and Ceicl. In about two weeks, Flowerree said they will begin harvesting some of their signature mangoes - Valencia Prides.

The harvesting for Kents will begin the first of July, followed by Keitt's, which typically has a season from mid June through the first or second week of September.

"It could possibly run a little longer because we have an unusual blooming season," Flowerree said.

Individuals can visit each grove and purchase mangoes.

Jean said they sell the fruit in different size quantities.

Flowerree said they only pick what they are going to use that day, as well as the maturity of the fruit. He said individuals can select from the mangos and buy whatever quantities they want.

"They don't have to take a pre-packed box," Flowerree said, adding that individuals can also order what they want online. "We actually ship fruit all over the country."

For more information about Mango Tango Tropicals, visit or call 239-283-1900. It is located at 5371 Stingfellow Road in St. James City.

For more information about Promised Land Mangos, visit or call 239-369-3896. It is located at 7271 Pineland Road in Bokeelia.

For more information about the Mango Factory, visit or call 239-283-0830. It is located at 7180 Tropical Lane in Bokeelia.

 
 

 

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