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The Haitian mangoes have arrived! The Haitian mangoes have arrived!

By Jean H. Charles
Mango Baptis  
Mango Francis  
Mango baptis  

Published on Friday, April 17, 2009 There is a saying from the old Wild West about potential wealth to be acquired, “Thar’s gold in them thar hills.” Haitians can say the same about another type of gold, or at least a potential in wealth golden both in colour and quality of taste: mangoes, and not just any type of mangoes, “Haitian Mangoes”!

On or around Easter, the first Haitian mangoes arrive, from the hinterland and sent by cargo plane into the large Western urban warehouses. From there, as cash crops, they will be exported immediately to city street vendors and the supermarkets of New York City, and beyond.

Without overstating the facts, yours truly can humbly declare, “move away Tommy Atkins, Hayden and Keith, the Queen of the queens of the mango genre has made her appearance”.

By way of confirming this fact, several years ago, a major produce wholesaler told me, there are in the world, two types of mangoes. There are mangoes from the rest of the world, and then there are mangoes from Haiti!

I did not at the time understand him. Now I do! Enter the Madame Francis Mango! As I said, now I understand the wisdom in taste buds of this wholesaler. This particular and inestimable mango, exported from Haiti to the United States and beyond is, to put it in understatement, simply a pure delight even for one uneducated in the difference between a superstar and an amateur.

By way of a bit of history on the mango, generally, the mango fruit, for centuries a staple of India is widely catalogued as being indigenous to India. In fact, the mango is the official fruit of India, with its leaves put to ritual cleansing and other religious uses there. This misinformation of the origins of the mango is so widespread that on the web every source quotes the Indian sub-continent as the original home of this, the “King of fruits”.

However, in a recent episode on the Daily Planet hosted by Jay and Ziya on The Discovery Channel, one scientist debunked this myth. He showed that the error first occurred with the British when they controlled India, and began to catalogue fruits and plant species and their origins from all over the British Empire.

The Daily Planet episode showed that the mango originated in Africa, and was taken before 4BC to the Indian sub-continent and then, when the Portuguese controlled both Africa and parts of southern India like Goa, re-exported other evolved genres of the original mango—named from a Tamil word mangkay—back into East Africa.

In more recent centuries, the mango accompanied the colonizers, conquistadors, and empire-builders into the Western Hemisphere and into the Caribbean. Even then, the mango was called, the fruit of the gods. For the last 500 years, the mango tree, some of which live for more than 300 years, bearing fruit century after century, has established itself so well in the region that in the same way India dethroned Africa, so, too, has the Caribbean now in turn dethroned India as the best source of the carotene charged produce.

Now, Haiti has moreover done to the rest of the Caribbean what the Caribbean did to India. Alone in this Western Hemisphere, Haiti has the distinction of having created the queen of the queens of all mangoes, the aforementioned Francis type. Several other countries, including Costa-Rica and the Dominican Republic have tried to replicate the Francis brand in their own lands. They have all failed, utterly. In fact, so unique is this Queen of queens that she is partial and moody, not only to not growing outside of Haiti, but also to growing only in some, not all parts of Haiti. Yes, she deigns to grow, only in certain regions of the country.

Where these are, are a national secret!

In a commercial vein, a Haiti aware of this brand value would have created a marketing blitz machine for it, probably taking a cue from Beaujolais, the esteemed French wine that arrives at the same timearound Thanksgivingall over the world, following a protocol scripted with the same glamour as the travel itinerary of a true king.

An even truer monarch and queen, The Madame Francis Mango, by itself would constitute a green gold mine for Haiti. Costing about 15 cents (US) from its point of departure, the price rises steeply to US$1.80 to US$2.00 at retail in New York. More expensive than all the other types of mangoes, it is yet most sought after by repeated clients as soon as they have discovered its taste, its texture and its allure.

Despite this overwhelming and hard to fill demand, so far only 20% of the land that could accommodate the Francis type has been planted with it. This is inexplicable. The mango tree takes five years to produce its first fruits; and will continue almost indefinitely to grace the owner of the sinfully tasting fruit every year from April to July.

It has been my empirical observation that the treenot surprising for a reigning monarchis also a bit fickle, deigning to produce its best vintage every other year. Since last year, 2008 was a golden one for the Francis mango season, I am predictinghopefully, I will be proven wrongthat this year will not be a sterling one for the producers and the consumers.

If the Francis Mango is not unique enough, Haiti has yet another mango type called Mango Baptist, shaped like an apple. Here is the good news: it is even better in taste and texture than the Francis genre; in fact, closer than any apple can ever having the tempting and alluring taste of the forbidden fruit of paradise.

The Mango Baptist has not been exported because it has not yet passed the test of USDA sustainability in hot water. This practice of organic decontamination has been discovered and experimented on, first in Haiti. The practice has been tried since, also exported all over the world. The mango processing plants in Haiti are supervised by a USDA employee or its agent who ensure the quality of each mango.

As if the Francis Mango and the Baptist Mango were enough to make Haiti a unique place for splendid tasting mangoes, there are, in addition to these two queens of fruits, several other fruits, all sinfully sweet, that are particular to growing … in Haiti. They have not yet been exported. Among these fruits one can find, for example, the cachiman, the corossol, the cayemitte, the encompassing passion fruit, the big baby banana, the giant apricot, the kenepa, the sapodilla, et al.

In the meantime, I will use the Hayden and the Keith for juicing, mixed with grape or papaya because it gives a protein rich drink, daily. However, and not surprising, the Madame Francis will occupy the queen’s place for a delightful dessert or a snack in-between meals; cut on both sides by a knife; my savoring the flavor and the flesh before I hold the delicate seed to relish the remaining flesh.

This sensationand I speak without fear of being contradictedcertainly puts one closer to paradise on earth than any other fruit can. By way, therefore, of providing some needed advice and doing my civic duty, the hospitals, the schools will do well with using these fruits. There, in the hospitals, the sick will heal sooner; the kids will learn better and remain more happily. Also, in the prisons and detention centers which spring like mushrooms after a rain all over the country, given a taste of Madam Francis, even the most hardened prisoners will abandon their illegal and criminal ways, and instead of using illegal drugs, will otherwise seek their highs; most wholesome highs, from the Queen herself, from paradise itself.

So, my cry today, echoing that of the old Wild West is: “Go, Madame Francis, go!” Do your best to bless mankind until July when you will fade away until next year, making this old world a little younger, and merrier, and safer!

Jean H Charles MSW, JD is Executive Director of AINDOH Inc a non profit organization dedicated to build a kinder and gentle Caribbean zone for all. He can be reached at: jeanhcharles@aol.


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