Tuesday, 14 March 2017

First of Our Season: Seedling Mangoes

Our local Sydney stores are draining of succulent mangoes. Home gardeners have plucked their bounty of famous Kensington Prides, while the last of the KPs in the shops are super expensive. There are still some Keitt mangoes for sale, as well as the Brooks variety, which is the latest maturing commercial variety in Australia. Essentially, the end of the mango season is nigh for another year.

A pair of late season Brooks mangoes

How lucky are we then to have luscious home-grown mangoes at season’s end? Our bounty is just beginning…

Over the past two weeks, we have harvested the first of this season’s crop from our Maha Chanok Seedling tree. In its third fruiting year, the small, head-height tree holds ten mangoes: two small fruit, the rest are absolute thumpers, our first two fruits weighing above one kilo! Each!

Luckily, there are three of us to consume these monsters… a mango face each for two lucky householders while the third person gets to munch on the abundant flesh around the super-thin seed. Mildly aromatic, fibre-free, sweet, melt-in-your-mouth… Mmm!

1.2 kilos... Dessert for three!
Because of its over-sized, sensationally-sweet fruit, our seedling Maha Chanok has become the supreme tree of our small suburban garden. A risky experiment turned highly successful! But why?

Across the internet, there is a lot of ‘bad press’ about growing seedling mango trees. Some of this ‘bad press’ emanates from the belief that seedling mangoes take many more years to fruit than their grafted cousins. This, however, is not our experience, having grown three seedling mangoes in this garden, all of which have begun to bear first fruits in the third year after planting.

Another bone of contention is related to the type of seed.

Some mango varieties produce seeds with more than one embryo (polyembryonic). Many of the Asian mangoes, as well as Kensington Pride, produce polyembryonic seeds, which will generally grow more than one seedling shoot, most of which are true-to-type. This means that if you plant a Kensington Pride seed, the chances are that the resultant seedling tree will also be a Kensington Pride.

Other mango varieties produce seeds with a single embryo (monoembryonic). Monoembryonic mangoes will produce a single seedling bearing the characteristics of two parent trees. Herein lies the problem… the seedling will differ, in some ways, from the original mango.

But is this a bad thing?

Growing mangoes from the seeds of monoembryonic varieties can be risky for the backyard gardener. Obviously, you will know the mango cultivar from which you extracted the seed. But will you know the other parent pollinator? With limited space in a home garden, does one want to grow an inferior mango?

However, growing a monoembryonic seedling does not guarantee an inferior tree: it is just one of many possibilities, including perhaps, growing a superior tree.

The super thin seed shuck of the Maha Chanok seedling

A typical monoembryonic mango seed

Maha Chanok is a monoembryonic Thai mango variety. Our seedling tree is not genuine Maha Chanok. It has the growth habit, the fruit colour, the flavour and eating quality of its famed parent, but differs in the fruit size and shape.  Despite its differences, it is wonderful in its own right: a mango which simply cannot be purchased in a shop. A talking point… and a very tasty, exotic talking point at that!

More to come...

Now, we await our next experimental seedling. This is another monoembryonic mango, the American variety, Kent. At the moment, it stands happily and proudly in a large pot, and I suspect that it will have its first flowers in October. Here’s to the progeny…

Standing with it potted friends
So, is the planting of a seedling mango worth the risk to you? It certainly has been for us!

Wishing you hours of enjoyment and contentment in your garden…

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