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Magnificent Mangoes

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Locally grown mangoes are just weeks away from their peak, and the magnificent mango trees at Tony and Jenny Maddern’s Avalon orchard in Gingin are laden with slender green fruit.

By mid February the fruit will reach maturity, with bulging cheeks and a gently rounded hook at the tip. Then, the Madderns and their crew of 12 helpers – mostly backpackers – will be hard at work maximising production during the three-week picking window.

For Jenny, nothing compares to the taste of these southern-grown Kensington Prides. “It takes 120 days for the fruit to mature here, and only 90 days up North, so the mangoes have longer to develop their flavour – and the taste is to die for!”

The mango season in Western Australia starts in September with produce from Kununurra, Broome and Carnarvon available throughout summer. ‘KP’ mangoes grown in Gingin are the last of the season, and hit the shops as the tail end of the Carnarvon crop comes out of cold storage.

In contrast to those grown up North, Gingin mangoes are actually green when ripe. Trays of fruit are then ‘ripened’ using ethylene gas before sale in the supermarkets, which turns the skin colour to the consumer-expected gold, but shortens shelf life and can promote disease. From Tony’s perspective both as a grower, and also as chair of the Southern Mango Growers Association, he would prefer to see them presented as ‘Green Southern Mangoes’ to help educate consumers, and sell the fruit un-gassed.

The couple bought Avalon orchard in 2007, after years of living in the Northern Territory, where Tony worked for the Government as a Horticultural Researcher. The property was already well established, with the majority of the 4500 mango trees well over 15 years old.

They added to the diversity of the orchard by planting passion fruit and citrus. The abundant water enables the light sandy soils to be very productive, but with fruit prices ever diminishing, they still rely on their jobs off-farm as income.

This year’s season has been kind, and whilst the six day stint of over 40ºC lowered the expected tonnage from 90 to 70, Tony is still concerned he will have more fruit than he can sell.

With prices at Canning Vale markets anticipated to be as low as $15-25 a tray, the $21 production cost leaves little margin for profit, and the Madderns are again faced with the dilemma of just what percentage of their crop they will pick this season, after leaving 45 ton of fruit to rot on the ground last year.

In a bid to reduce the wastage and increase their bottom line, Tony and Jenny will offer trays of delicious tree-ripened mangoes for sale at the Avalon orchard farm gate from mid-month.

Lucky passers-by on the Mooliabeenee Rd (opposite Riseborough) will be able to pick up a box of fruit for around $20 – with up to 20 mangos in each tray it’s a locavore bargain. Make the most of the opportunity, while it lasts!