Heat 'cooks' mangoes

Haidee VandenbergheCountryman

It took just eight days for Brian Middleton’s mango season to turn from bountiful to disappointing.

A victim of Perth’s freak heatwave, much of the fruit of what was setting up to be the best harvest on record is now lying rotting beneath Brian’s immaculately kept mango trees.

After a dry spring and near perfect conditions for the tropical fruit, Brian was expecting a harvest of between 30 and 40 tonnes from his 1074-tree Neerabup orchard, but about 20 tonnes of that simply fell to the ground after nearly a month of 30C-plus weather.

It also means the season is now all but over at The Mango Farm because the hot weather caused the remaining fruit to all ripen at once.

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“This season started off absolutely fantastic, ” Brian said. “I thought I was going to have the best season ever, but we had eight days when it was 23–27C minimum and as a consequence the fruit didn’t have a chance to cool off overnight.

“The next day it’s 35 or 36 degrees again, the fruit is already hot from the day before and as a consequence two days later 20 tonnes of mangoes are lying on the ground, cooked.

“My season instead of going right through to the end of April is about six weeks shorter than I expected and there’s a lot of money lying on the ground.”

A dry September, during the all-important pollination period, had left the trees with an astounding 300 to 400 mangoes per tree.

“The worst thing about growing mangoes this far south of the equator is we get rain when it’s pollination time and if you get rain you get disease, ” Brian said.

“When you get disease you don’t get good pollination and most seasons we suffer a lot of disease so we only have a crop of about anything from one to 10 tonnes.”

Working with his son, Martyn, Brian sells all the produce from his orchard by inviting the public to pick their own rather than selling fruit through the market system. He believes it offers customers a superior tasting mango.

One of Perth’s few commercial mango growers, Brian admits the fruit loss is disappointing but it hasn’t let it dampen his passion for what he describes as the king of fruits.

“For me, the money is not that important because this is what I like doing, ” he said. “This is my passion, this is my dream of 20 years.”

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