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Mangos and soccer: You can do both

Van Dyke, a mango variety grown in Colombia.
Van Dyke, a mango variety grown in Colombia.
© 2013 George Leposky

At first glance, it looks like a conflict. Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden’s 22nd annual International Mango Festival takes place Saturday and Sunday, July 12 and 13, 2014 – the same days as the final FIFA World Cup Soccer matches in Brazil.

Happily, the mango festival’s hours, 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. each day, give you plenty of time to indulge at the garden before scurrying home to watch soccer on TV. The consolation match on Saturday starts at 4 p.m.; the championship contest on Sunday begins at 3 p.m.

You can even buy some mangos at the festival to munch on during the soccer matches.

Colombia mangos are featured

The 2104 festival features the mangos of Colombia, which in recent years has become a major producer and exporter after building a hot-steam quarantine plant to guard against the spread of Mediterranean fruit flies to fly-free regions abroad.

In 2012, FreshFruitPortal.com reported that Colombia devoted 8,160 acres to mango cultivation and produced more than 200,000 metric tons of the fruit. That year, the country had 44 municipalities with more than 100 acres of mango tree plantations.

Two Colombian varieties – Azucar and Vallenato – are among the Curator's Choice selections offered for sale during the festival.

Azucar (sugar) bears the name of the sweet cane sugar that grows in Colombia’s tropical lowlands. It’s Colombia’s de facto national mango, readily available in street markets. Vallenato, an heirloom variety from Colombia’s Atlantic Coast, has a red skin and tastes like apricot and citrus.

Other mangos grown in Colombia include Haden, Hilacha, Irwin, Keitt, Manila, Springfield, Tommy Atkins, Van Dyke, and Yulima. Unlike the U.S. and Mexico, where mangos have a definite season, Colombia is blessed with local mangos bearing fruit throughout the year.

To learn specifically about Colombian mangos, attend “The Mangos of Colombia” lecture by Noris Ledesma, Fairchild’s curator of tropical fruit, at 1 p.m. Saturday in the Garden House.

Ledesma is the lead-off speaker in a schedule of lectures and workshops during both days of the festival. For a complete list, see the Fairchild Web site.

Two highlights

A highlight of the festival, on Saturday morning only, is the Mango Bites Sampling – a selection of mango dishes and products from leading Miami-area restaurants, caterers, and businesses.

Saturday is also the best time to participate in the annual Mango Tasting and Flavor Evaluations, where you can join a panel of expert tasters who will pay $1 to compare several varieties of mangos and then vote for their favorite. This is a popular activity, and supplies have been known to run out, so plan your tasting session for Saturday morning, too.

Other activities

The festival also is your opportunity to learn about advances in mango cultivation, sample the results, buy fruit to take home, and have a lot of fun. Other activities include:

• Cooking demonstrations featuring mango dishes prepared by celebrated local chefs.

• Yoga classes for adults and children.

• An international fruit market with multiple varieties of mangos for sale.

• Mangoville, where vendors and food trucks will sell an extensive array of foods and beverages.

• The 15th Annual Mango Brunch on Sunday.

• Fairchild’s Wings of the Tropics exhibit, where tropical butterflies flit about and alight to feast on mangos.

Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden is located at 10901 Old Cutler Road in Coral Gables.

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