Mad about mangoes
Where to buy mango trees:
■ Frank DeNardis, North Naples: (239) 597-8359
■ ECHO (Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization), North Fort Myers; (239) 567-1900
■ Treehouse Nursery on Pine Island, (239) 283-3688
For more information about mangoes and subtropical fruits, check with any of these organizations:
■ Collier Fruit Growers (Naples) or Bonita Springs Tropical Fruit Club: www.collierfruit.org
■ Caloosa Rare Fruit Exchange (Fort Myers): crfe.org
If you’ve ever wondered what happened to the Garden of Eden, it is right here in Southwest Florida on 5 acres owned by Madeline Bohannon. On her property are fruit trees in abandon, and first and foremost among them are mangoes.
Bohannon doesn’t have to worry about picking the harvest: The fruit for which she’s best known simply falls at her feet when it’s ready for eating. Bohannon has 15 varieties among her 28 mango trees. Bohannon is also known for her green mango pie, a sweet treat she willingly shares along with the mangoes that go into it.
“Green mango is unripe mango and you can tell by the green outsides of the mango that it’s truly not ripe yet,” she says about the pie’s main ingredient. “You find when you’re peeling them that they’re yellow or yellowish-orange on the inside. It will look ripe on the inside, but certainly it’s not.”
When it comes to pie crust in humid Southwest Florida, Bohannon suggests taking a shortcut.
“Making fresh crust is such a bother rolling it out and it tears, so I use Pet-Ritz pie crust, which you can find in any grocery store, and I get a pack of deep dish and one of the regular dish,” she suggests. The deep dish for the bottom of the pie and the regular pie crust functions as the top crust.
Ripe mangoes make delicious pies, too, she says: “The fruit just goes a little more mooshy when it’s baking.”
Bohannon finds specific benefits in growing her own fruits and using specific ingredients found in natural cooking, such as using real butter versus synthetic replacements.
“I don’t believe in margarine. I once put pat of butter and a pat of margarine on the ground where there was grass and when I came back the butter had ants and all sorts of animal life all over it, while nothing touched the margarine,” she said. “Animal life knows margarine doesn’t have anything of value in it, and that’s why they didn’t touch it. Those are some smart bugs.”
Although Bohannon is known for her mangoes and green mango pie, her green thumb doesn’t stop there. Last year Bohannon planted 24 macadamia nut trees and she plans to have them grow large enough to start producing within two years. This year, her mango harvest was so prolific she was able to supply Ada’s Whole Foods Market, 4650 S. Cleveland Ave., in Fort Myers.
“They are really happy, these trees,” she said of the trees that occupy a large space on her land. It may be because her orchard is completely organic
She also has avocado trees, many varieties of bananas, allspice, lychee and strawberry guava among numerous other fruits. Bohannon’s Mineola tangelos, also known as honeybells, are still green as they hang from the trees, but this winter in December, they’ll be ripe and bright orange.
“Too many people pick these too early because they want them for Christmas, but that’s silly because if they would wait a few weeks and give the cooler weather a chance to ripen them up they would be sweeter,” she says. “It’s a better Christmas if you wait to send them when they’re ready.”
Bohannon has learned from, and shared her own expertise with, the Bonita Springs Fruit Club and the Caloosa Rare Fruit Exchange. In fact, at one time, she recalls, she was president of both groups at once.
Bohannon is committed to her fruit trees above and beyond what most master gardeners would consider enough love to facilitate growth. She gives tours regularly to fruit tree clubs and culinary
As Bohannon takes people around her property, she explains something about each of the trees and treats visitors to a scrumptious snack right from the branches.
“The strawberry guava is so good, but it has very hard seeds in them so you shouldn’t bite them with your teeth, although you can swallow them or spit them out,” she said.
Scattered along the way as Bohannon’s acreage weaves around her home and along a neighboring creek are her many mango trees.
“The chokanon mango is also called the miracle mango because it can and sometimes does have more than one season, like spring and fall, or summer and fall or whatever it feels like,” said Bohannon. “This came in sort of early this year so it might even put on another whole new crop for the fall. That’s the wonderful thing about mangoes — no matter what stage they’re in, they are so good.”
Madeline Bohannon’s green mango pie
4 cups of peeled, cubed, green mango
1 cup of sugar
¼ cup of flour
1 extra-large egg or 2 small eggs
1 Pet-Ritz deep-dish pie crust for the bottom of the pie
1 Pet-Ritz regular pie crust for the top of the pie
■ Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
■ Place the deep dish pie crust on a counter in its pan.
■ Pour the 4 cups of chopped mango into the pie crust.
■ Stir the flour and sugar together in a glass measuring cup. Add the egg to sugar-flour mixture. Stir until mixed well.
■ Spread the mixture over the top of the mangoes.
■ Add a few drops of water to the glass measuring cup used to mix flour and sugar. Using your fingertips, apply some of the water and leftover mixture along the edge of the pie crust.
■ Remove the regular pie crust from the container. Apply the rest of the water droplets to the outer edge of this crust to glue the two crusts together.
■ Place the top of the pie crust on the top of the deep-dish pie; make sure the crusts are aligned. Gently press or pinch the edges of the two crusts together with your fingers or press fork tines around the edge of the crusts to seal them.
■ Vent the pie crust by making several straight and diagonal slits in the top of the crust. (Venting the crust makes it easier to slice the pie after it’s cooked. Not venting the crust will result in a hollow crust.)
■ Bake for 1 hour until pie is golden-brown.