If you’ve got any experience with the tropical fruit-growing scene in South Florida, you know Richard Campbell. For many years Campbell was the curator of tropical fruits at Fairchild Tropical Garden, travelling the world to bring back excellent varieties of tropical fruits, and working out the best methods to cultivate them back here in Florida. At Fairchild, Dr Campbell organized the International Mango Festival each year, where he was the very public face of the festival.
Many of us have been educated by Campbell in his numerous videos online, where he teaches aspects of grafting fruit trees, pruning them, and cultivation. In one online video, you can see him on a fruit-collecting trip, climbing a tree in the jungle in Bali to retrieve scion wood of the rare wani, the Balinese white mango, to bring this fruit variety back to Florida.
Today Campbell works for Ciruli Brothers, a grower and shipper of tropical fruits and vegetables. But on the side, he and his sons have a little business: on their tiny half-acre piece of land, they have a mini-orchard of their favorite varieties of mangos. During mango season, they sell boxes of mixed varieties of these excellent mango varieties on weekends from their home.
I visited them in early June, and got some mangoes. They have the fruits arranged by variety in crates, spread out in their carport area, and visitors line up, while Richard and his sons slice up fruits to hand out tasting samples, and they assemble mixed boxes of the different varieties, writing the variety name on each fruit with a marker. The day I was there, son Ian Campbell was helping out to pack boxes for customers and ring up sales.
Half the fun of being there was just being around Richard Campbell – it was fun to meet him in person after many years of reading his research papers and watching his videos. He is quite a powerhouse, telling stories about the different varieties, and giving tips for the best way to grow and harvest mangoes.
Campbell explained that they grow their mangoes with no chemical fertilizers, no herbicides, and surprisingly to me, no irrigation once the trees are established. He stressed the importance of not irrigating mango trees, not even with drip, in order to get top quality fruits.
Every week during mango season, the Campbells post a list on Facebook of what varieties they have available that week, and they also send out an email. At the time of my visit, the price was $35 for a mixed box, as shown in the photo.
The mangoes have been outstanding; each variety has a different balance of fruity flavors and textures. So far my favorite is ‘Fairchild’ – I love its rich, amber-honey taste with autumnal flavor notes.
Note: if you’re in west-central Florida, on Tuesday June 25th, Ian Campbell will be giving a presentation to the Sarasota Garden Club: “Harvesting and Growing Fruit on the Mango Men Orchard”. Ian will bring a number of gourmet mango varieties for tasting.