FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Sure, we love Georgia peaches. And come Thanksgiving, we'll be looking to Massachusetts for cranberries.

But right now, through the end of the growing season in October, mangoes are our favorite fruit.

South Florida is the country's mango epicenter. California and Hawaii grow them, but if you want to know anything about the fruit, you come to South Florida to Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Coral Gables. Recently, the garden held its 18th annual International Mango Festival with experts, chefs and more than 9,000 mango enthusiasts gathering to celebrate the mangoes of India. More than 900 trees were sold.

Noris Ledesma, the garden's curator of tropical fruit, began her love affair with mangoes growing up in Colombia. She oversees Fairchild's collection of more than 500 varieties on its farm in south Miami-Dade County. It's the world's most important mango collection, with specimens from across the planet.

We turned to Ledesma to find out more about South Florida's favorite backyard fruit tree.

Q: Why so many varieties?

A: As human beings, we always want something different. If you have red mangoes, you want yellow.

Q: How are imported mangoes different from Florida mangoes?

A: All imported mangoes must be dipped in hot water to kill pests. That treatment can change significantly the texture of the fruit.

Q: What have you noticed the most about the different ways people cook with mangoes when you've traveled to mango-growing countries?

A: Here, fruit means something that is juicy and red, maybe yellow, and it has to be sweet. On the other side of the planet, fruit means something salty, spicy and flavors that you don't associate with fruit. It's like avocado for us in the States. We think of them as vegetables. But if you go to Brazil, they think of them as fruit. Avocado, for them, is ice cream and Smoothies.

Serves 4

Aria Kagan, a contestant on the just-finished season of "The Next Food Network Star" on HGTV, shared this recipe with guests at this year's Mango Festival at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. The Hollywood personal chef calls these tacos a perfect summer meal.

For slaw:

2 cups red cabbage, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped

1/2 cup red onion, thinly sliced

1 mango, peeled and thinly sliced

1 lime, zested

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

For fish:

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided

1 1/2 pounds firm white fish (black grouper recommended), skin removed

1 cup red onion, sliced

4 cloves of garlic, thickly sliced

Kosher salt and pepper to taste

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or less to taste

Zest of 1 lemon

8 (6-inch) flour tortillas


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Rinse red cabbage under cold water until the water runs clear. Pat the cabbage completely dry or dry in a salad spinner. Mix together all of the slaw ingredients and season with salt and pepper. Set aside at room temperature.

Line a baking sheet with foil. Brush 2 tablespoons olive oil on the foil.

Place fish skin side down on baking sheet, and sprinkle red onions and garlic around and over the fish.

Drizzle onions, garlic and fish with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Season with salt, pepper and cayenne pepper. Divide lemon zest over top of fish.

Bake 15-18 minutes until fish is opaque.

Meanwhile, wrap tortillas in foil.

Remove fish from oven and cover with foil to keep warm. Place tortillas in oven for 5 minutes to warm.

Place the warm tortillas on a plate, top with fish, roasted onion and big spoonful of slaw.

Serves 6

Noris Ledesma, curator of tropical fruit at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, shared this recipe from her travels to other mango-growing countries.


2 large ripe mangos, peeled and roughly chopped

1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated

1/2 tablespoon fresh lemongrass, chopped

1/2 cup chicken stock or broth

1/2 cup plain yogurt

6 large cooked shrimp

2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped


Place mangos, ginger, lemongrass and chicken stock in blender or food processor fitted with metal blade and puree until smooth. Place in large bowl. Add yogurt and stir to combine. Chill.

To serve, ladle soup into bowls. Place one shrimp in each bowl and garnish with cilantro.

Serves 8


1 (1-pound) loaf of pound cake or cream cake

1 pint heavy cream

1/4 cup, plus 1 tablespoon sugar, divided

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

4 large mangos, peeled and sliced

1 cup fresh raspberries for garnish

Powdered sugar, for garnish


Slice cake into 1-inch slices. Separate into 2 equal piles and set aside.

Whip heavy cream together with 1/4 cup of sugar and vanilla extract until medium stiff peaks and set aside.

Mix mangos with 1 tablespoon of sugar and set aside.

Layer the bottom of a tall glass bowl with one-third of the whipped cream. Layer the whipped cream with one-third of the mangos.

Top the mangos with half of the cake slices. Repeat layering process of whipped cream, mangos and cake.

Top with remaining whipped cream and mangoes.

Garnish with raspberries and a dusting of powdered sugar. Chill until serving time.