Mango growers and Department of Agriculture staff are expecting a bumper crop of the fruit this year as trees are in full bloom throughout all three Cayman Islands.
“Trees I’ve been watching for the past 10 years and longer are in full bloom,” said North Side farmer William Ebanks Sr., one of Cayman’s biggest producers of mangoes.
“I don’t see anything happening for the island not to be flooded with mangoes this year,” he said. “That’s unless we get another Hurricane Ivan.”
Cayman grows many varieties of mangoes, which vary dramatically in size, texture and colour.
Though it is not exactly clear what is causing the massive flowering this year, Brian Crichlow, DoA assistant director, described the conditions necessary for a good crop.
“You get the right combination of dry spell, rainfall – mangoes love a dry time to get the trees flowering,” he said.
He explained whether all the trees hold mangoes or not depends on a number of factors, adding that diseases and environmental impacts could affect the fruit.
But, Crichlow said, it is looking very positive for a bumper crop this year, unlike the last couple of years. When Cayman experiences a good crop, it is often followed by a cycle of bad crops, he explained.
“I am hoping we get a good crop,” he said. “If that is the case, there might be a problem with farmers getting rid of mangoes.”
On Cayman Brac, Shariffa Chantilope-Zelaya, plant assistant at the Brac office of the DoA, agreed, saying that almost every mango tree on the islands has flowered so far. “Last year was not as bountiful,” she added.
In addition to the possible scientific explanation for the massive flowering this year, Chantilope-Zelaya said, “It could just be nature’s way”, or as older Brac farmers say, “One bountiful crop this year, one lean crop the next year.”
Little Cayman farmer Frankie Bodden said that last year he hardly had any mangoes, but now has lots of blossoms on his trees. He is chalking up the better numbers to the leap year, saying that is normally when Cayman experiences a better crop. He added there is also better fishing and turtling during a leap year.
No bees needed
Although mangoes produce many flowers, not all of those flowers will produce fruit.
Flowers may develop on different parts of a tree at different times. Mango trees differ from other fruit trees as their flowers don’t require bees for pollination; a host of insects and fruit bats do that job.
In addition, mango trees are monoecious, meaning the flowers have both female and male reproductive organs and most can self-pollinate.
Flowering may occur any time between December and March, depending on the growing area and weather conditions.
From bloom to fruit
The time it takes to produce mature, harvest-ready fruit after flowering ranges from 100 to 150 days, depending on the cultivator, growing region and weather.
After flowers are pollinated, the fruit begins to develop. Mango skins may be greenish-yellow or orange-red.
The flavour varies from acidic to sweet. Compared to the number of
flowers a tree produces, the actual number of fruit that develops and mature to harvest is very small. Most varieties bear fruit between May and September, with June and July the most productive months, and they vary dramatically in size, texture and colour.
East End farmer Franklin Smith is also hopeful of a bonus year for mangoes, but sounded a note of caution. “There is a lot of blossoms on the trees and we are hoping we will have a bumper crop this year,” he said, adding, “To tell you the truth, there is lots of flowers but I don’t see much fruit in the blooms.”
He said this might be due to a lack of pollination. “It could be the climate, hot and cold,” he said. “There has not been a lot of rain to stop the pollination, so I really can’t say what it is … I only hope we will get a good crop. We just have to wait and see.”
A few years ago during a particularly large harvest, North Side farmer Ebanks said they picked more than 2,000 pounds of mangoes a day, and collected more than 160,000 pounds of mangoes that season. In fact, the crop was so bountiful, he reckoned, 30,000 to 40,000 pounds of the fruit were fed to cows and pigs.
Ebanks said his farm grows more than 75 varieties of mango, and this year there will be even more because there are trees that are blooming for the first time. He added there are a lot of cross-bred trees. When grown from seeds, the trees can take 10 to 15 years to bear fruit, but grafted trees can bear much quicker.
Mango varieties found in Cayman include:
- Nam Doc Mai
- No. 11
- East Indian
- Valencia Pride
- (Cross breeds and common local mangoes also found)