During Harry’s Pizzeria’s BBQ Night in Pizzaland a chance encounter landed the restaurant with over with 50 pounds of mangoes! I met a woman named Valerie Stern, and she is my mango queen! When I saw her last, she handed me about 40 pounds of mangoes and told me to sprinkle their goodness around Genuineland. Make your summer a whole lot sweeter? We’re on it, Val!
Valerie moved into her Schenley Park home in 1992 – a mango tree stood on the property, complete with rope swing and it was too beautiful to pass up. Not even a month after moving in, on August 24, Hurricane Andrew took half of Valerie’s tree but couldn’t wipe it out. This story has a happy ending and after a few years of consulting with various arborists and mango experts and lots of love, Valerie was able to nurse her mango tree back to health. She estimates that her mango tree is about 80 years old, based on when some other trees were planted in her neighborhood. It’s over 30 feet tall!
One great thing about Valerie is that she’s generous, another great thing about her is that she doesn’t like raw mangoes… So… Valerie brings her mangoes to local restaurants and about 90% of her harvest are scattered around Miami’s finest eateries. She keeps about two mangoes a week for herself and the rest go to friends. Friends like PopNature and Wynwood Brewery, who are able to process and use the mangoes at the rate Valerie’s tree is producing them. Valerie’s mangoes are an endangered breed. About 10 years ago Valerie reached out to Dr. Richard Campbell, the Senior Curator of Tropical Fruit at the Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden, to get some answers about her mysterious fruit. Cherwin mangoes are very sweet, very large and very dense and almost impossible to find in Miami any more. Cherwin’s are perfect for pulping and purees – they aren’t fibrous at all and have a very compact seed. They are most similar to Jubilee, another culinary favorite. At Harry’s Pizzeria, as part of our (RED) campaign, we are asking guests to bring in their mangoes to #86AIDS and raise awareness for the month of June… ’tis the season! Chef de Cuisine, Daniel Ramirez, put these mangoes to work and immediately had them on the menu. Now you can find them in our salad and house soda!
Executive Chef of The Genuine Hospitality Group, Bradley Herron, has his own 80 year old mango tree in his backyard. Chef Brad says, “I got mangoes coming out of my ears at home. You just gotta process all of them in the right ways,” Bradley explains. “The mint condition mangoes go on the counter – those are sliced for eating fresh. The slightly bruised ones that have tree-ripened and fallen (I have a tall tree!) – those get pureed and added to kombucha. I have mango in the dehydrator for leather. 12 hours at 135 degrees. I have 60 pounds in the freezer for smoothies or sorbet.” Not everyone is a trained chef, but seasoned mango lovers know how to process their fruit!
Eric Elliot, long time mango hunter, Miami Beach resident and good friend of Chef Michael, comes at mango season with full force! All he needs are his specialized mango picker (a Miami staple) and the sun at his back! Eric has four mango trees on his property, all different varieties; Carrie, Julie, Southern Blush and the elusive and highly prized Indian Alphonso — “the King of Mangoes”. One day he harvested over 300 pounds! Needless to say, Eric has to process his mangoes quick. Aside from the dedicated freezer in the garage filled with whole mangoes and purees, Eric uses a dehydrator to make mango chips – his kids’ favorite (not to mention they last all year round!) Eric credits mangoes with introducing him to his wife. In 1994, Eric attended a super spicy Indian dinner party and the only thing he could stomach on the menu was dessert, a mango pie. He had to find out who made this pie, and that search led him to Victoria, who later became his wife. Victoria’s parents have 11 mango trees at their home, so Victoria knew a thing or two about baking the best mango pie. As their wedding gift, Victoria’s father gave the couple their first mango tree. See how mangoes can bring people together? It’s a beautiful thing. How do I love thee? Let me mango the ways…