Mango can be said to be one of the most popular fruits to eat for people in Taiwan during the midsummer period. Especially, the mango ice made with ice products has popularity of even higher than that of any other summer fruits.
The mango in Taiwan was supposed to be brought by the Dutch. “Mango (It is the species which was transferred from Japan by foreigner. It is like a pork loin, and it is abundant in May and June.
There are three kinds of mangoes: ‘fragrant mango’, ‘wood mango’, and ‘meat mango’; as conveyed in foreign countries: there is a fruit in the south, its taste is sweet, its color is yellow, and its root is in the nucleus)” (Gao Gongqian 高拱乾 1960).
Because of the needs of farmers and the efforts of agricultural administrative units, the current mango in Taiwan can be divided into many strains.
“Soil mango” possesses green skin, small size, and flesh rich in fiber. The common strain is “wood mango” (also known as “wooden mango”) which is characterized by flat body and dark green ripening peel.
Mango was praised by Li Shizhen in Ming Dynasty as “the best of the fruits”. Its nutritional content is also very high. These include high carbohydrates, organic acids, dietary fiber, plant-based protein, riboflavin, calcium nicotinate, vitamins (vitamins A, B1, B2, and C), phosphorus, calcium, iron, etc
It also contains medicinal value. Zhao Xuemin in Qing Dynasty, who wrote the Chinese Materia medica book “Ben Cao Gang Mu Shi Yi” said, “Seasickness is known as ‘bitter boat’ by northerners, and it is accompanied by vomiting and lack of appetite, which is stopped when landing.
People with weak stomach often have these symptoms. Mango contains glycolic acids which is beneficial to the stomach, thus can prevent these symptoms. … Those who cross the sea eat the mango and they do not vomit. Therefore, those who cross the sea often buy mangoes.”
The period of from June till September of every year is the main production period of mangoes. In recent years, the area for cultivation of mangoes in Taiwan is about 20,000 hectares.
Hengchun Peninsula is the earliest production area of mangoes. There are many farmers planting mangoes in regions which include West Tableland in Hengchun, Laofoshan in Manzhou, Haikou in Checheng, and coastal areas in Fangshan Township.
Hillside from Fangshan to Checheng is the main production area for Mangos in the whole Hengchun peninsula.
Because the sunshine of peninsula is sufficient (more on the sunshine hours in Kenting), and there is sea breeze, the mangoes produced here contain more sun-ripened fragrance. The quality is not inferior to the products of Yujing District in Tainan.
From Fenggang in Fangshan to Haikou in Checheng, the coastal hillside is the most distinctive mango production area in Hengchun Peninsula.
These mangoes which are planted on the hillside contain sufficient sunshine and abundant water supply, and they are often blown by salty sea breeze. These cause the sweetness of the produced mangoes lies between fifteen and seventeen degrees. Hence, the name of “mango looking at the sea” has gradually been known.
Farmers have to spend manpower to take care of them in order to make good mangoes.
The production period of mangoes from the west coast of Hengchun Peninsula is earlier than that of other places. Some farmers will wait until “Yellow While Hanging on The Wood” (在欉黃), which also means that they will wait until the fruits fully ripen before harvesting.
The term “Yellow While Hanging on The Wood” or 在欉黃 Zài cóng huáng, is actually a culturally important term not only in Kenting, but in all Taiwan, and it basically means higher quality, better tasting fruit, that are ripened on the “wood” or on tree, as an opposite to those, that are harvested earlier, while green, and then sold in supermarkets on regular markets all over Taiwan.
The fruits are thus hung on the branches for three or five more days, so that ultraviolet rays of the sun naturally ripen the fruit. This makes the flavor and fragrance of the ripening fruit better.
These Kenting mangoes that are not artificially ripened are also more expensive than those that are ripened with drugs on the market!
Depending on the season, if you drive up or down to Kenting via Provincial Highway 26, you will see mangoes sold almost every smallest village you cross, and especially so in Fangshan.
Last time we drove back from Kenting we stopped to buy mangoes from this hero (no irony) old lady.
This mango farmer lady is 92 years old! Ninety Two!
Mango Auntie told us that recently is becoming very hard for her to gather the mangoes, that grow just near the shop (photo above), and she needs to pay NTD1200 a day for a worker to hire, for this job.
Locally grown and sold Fangshan mango
These local roadside shops have everything needed for a living, and farmer can stay here all day along, and some even have place to sleep. Above we can see kitchen, where auntie can cook food for herself while still be on duty selling mango.