Mi nuh drink cawfee tea, mango time
Doan care ‘ow nice it may be, mango time
Ah di height a di mango crop
When di fruits dem a ripe an’ drap
Wash yuh pot tun dem dung, mango time.
So begins the first verse of the popular Jamaican folk song, Mango Time. Every Jamaican knows this song and if you don’t well, don’t worry, Jamaican Echoes will mek sure you do.
Do You have a Favourite Mango?
Which is your favourite mango? Is it the Number Eleven, Blackie (definitely one of my favourites!), Julie or it’s official name St. Julian (mmmm, mouth start fi wata jus thinkin bout di Julie mango!), East Indian or Bombay mangoes (considered the Rolls Royce of mangoes in Jamaica, especially Bombay), Stringy (mi cyaan stan’ fi eat dis one but it well sweet!), Beefy, Hayden, Sweetie Come Brush Mi or Common?
Whichever mango you prefer, or if you just love all varieties of mangoes you can get your hands on, it is a known fact that Jamaicans on a whole have a love affair with mangoes that has deep roots in our history and culture. In fact we have several Jamaican Proverbs and sayings that speak to this love affair and alludes to the abundance of the mango fruit during the season:
“When mango season plenty, neygar stoccado wear black pot.”
“One bite cyaan nyam mango.”
“Mango season, mi nuh need fi wuk.”
Introduction of the Mango to Jamaica
The mango is not an indigenous fruit to Jamaica but was introduced to the island quite by accident. According to Frank Cundall (1915, p. 25) the mango was brought to Jamaica “by Captain Marshall of Rodney’s squadron in 1782, [and] was first planted in Hinton East’s botanic garden, in Liguanea…” Actually, Captain Marshall had captured a French vessel on its way to Haiti and on board were plants and seeds, the mango fruit among them. These mangoes were numbered and first planted in Hinton East’s botanic garden. The Number Eleven survived as one of the varieties of these mangoes.
Mango actually comes from India, from the Indo-Burma region, and has been cultivated there for over 4000 years.
Olive Senior ( 2003) notes that in 1794, the Royal Gazette newspaper offered 18 plants for distribution, six for each country. She further notes that within two decades, the mango was described as one of the commonest fruit trees in a great number of varieties.
In 1869, the Governor, Sr. John Peter Grant, imported two cases of grafted mangoes (18 varieties) of mango plants from India. This batch included the Bombay mango. In 1884 several other varieties came from Martinique, which included the mango of all mangoes, the heavenly Julie or St. Julian mango.
How Many Varieties of Mangoes are Really there?
Today, there are so many varieties of mangoes that one can hardly keep count. Personally, there are only a few I can really tell the difference just from the eating while the obvious ones like Bombay, Julie, East Indian and Blackie, I can tell their difference from their size and colouring. Here’s a listing of mango varieties I found:
- East Indian
- Julie or St. Julian
- Keith (a really large round mango that can weigh up to two pounds)
- Number Eleven
- Red Jaw
- Sweetie Come Brush Mi
- Tommy Atkins
I’ve also learnt that not all parishes have an abundance of mangoes. Mangoes grow abundantly in the parishes of Clarendon, St. Elizabeth, St. Mary and St. Thomas, and each is famous for a different variety:
- Clarendon: known for Stringy, Sweetie Come Brush Mi, Number Eleven, Turpentine and Robin
- St. Elizabeth: the land of the Backie mango
- St. Mary: known for East Indian
- St. Thomas: known for East Indian and Julie
The mango season runs from April to September but is most abundant between June and August. So mango trees like this one around this time are quite common:
So what is your favourite mango and how do you eat it? For me, it all depends on the mango. If it’s Blackie or Number Eleven then it’s several mangoes in one sitting or while under the tree. If it’s a Julie or East Indian mango then that demands more time to be given to appreciating the sweet Julie mango or East Indian, one at a time, with no more than two in one sitting. I’ve never eaten a Bombay mango all by myself; always a piece of one. To be honest, diet mash up during mango season!
And as a final note, the mango fruit has been so well-appreciated throughout the years since its introduction in Jamaica, companies even put out advertisements about the season to capitalise on packaging mango with their own products, like this May 15, 1917 Gleaner newspaper advertisement:
Share your mango stories with Jamaican Echoes!
Until next time…
Cundall, Frank (1915) Historic Jamaica. Kingston: Institute of Jamaica
Olive Senior (2003), Encyclopedia of Jamaican Heritage. St. Andrew: Twin Guinep Publishers, Ltd.
Panmedia.com (2007) Mango Time Soon Come. [Online]. Available from: http://www.panmedia.com.jm/archive/features/mango.htm. [Accessed 5 June 2011]
Shakespeare-Blackmore, Keisha (2006) Mango Time. [Online]. Available from: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20060525/cook/cook1.html. [Accessed on 5 June 2011].