Articles written by Darryl McCullough (unless otherwise noted)

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Coconut Cream

Let's talk about Coconut Cream, one of a slew of mango varieties to emerge from Walter Zill in Boynton Beach. I've had one in the ground since August, 2013. I stripped its fruit and tipped it the past two seasons, but by the end of this summer it should be my height with close to a 2-inch trunk, so I hope for production next season.

I tasted my first Coconut Cream mango last Monday, courtesy of MRFC Secretary Josh Starry, who acquired some of the fruit on Pine Island. It was an excellent mango, indeed. The texture is fiberless and indeed could be called creamy. The flavor has a pleasant but not overpowering element of coconut.

Of course the Coconut Cream variety has been discussed at the Tropical Fruit Forum. One thread begins with a poster euphoric over his first tasting of the fruit. His description:
As for the taste, it was absolute perfection. I love anything coconut flavored and this mango tasted so much like coconut. I couldn't believe how strong the coconut flavor was in this Mango. It was also completely fiberless and super creamy; it felt as though it left a buttery sensation that coated the inside of my mouth (no complaints here). There was no chalkiness, woodiness, or even scant fiber. Zill's truly created a masterpiece.

It was the best mango I have ever tasted and I am sure that this was not even a Coconut Cream mango at its best. I am so looking forward to tasting a fully grown and properly ripened Coconut Cream mango.
(The next poster on the thread quipped: But did you like it?)

As on most discussion boards, the TFF crowd never agrees on anything, and the dissenting opinions are there to be found:
When I first tried the CC mango, it smelled heavenly. I was impressed that it actually did have a creamy, coconutty flavor. Eating it by itself, with no other mangos on the table, it was delicious... as well as unique and special. That combined with the buzz surrounding it made me feel like it was a top mango.

At the Palm Beach Rare Fruit Council tasting a couple weeks ago... one thing that struck me was how the E-4 mango tasted way more coconutty and tropical. It was like E-4 was "the Real Coconut Cream." Then when trying CC alongside several other tasty mangos... I realized that there were other mangos that tasted better. The CC was still excellent but it paled in comparison to top tier fruits like Lemon Zest and Fruit Punch that really inspired my tastebuds.
Now for one of the forum's most noteworthy experts. Often rude and bullying, but not easily impressed and he does know his mangos:
I have eaten umpteen (way too many to count) Coco Cream over the last few years from well established trees (not 3 to 4 year old plantings from its 3 gallon release) and in a word, yes, they are outstanding and top tier. As with all mangoes, they do have their flaws. They have a very high sugar content and they go from ripe and delicious to overripe and somewhat fermented somewhat rapidly.
You can take your pick. Many factors go into the taste of a fruit, and even the same tree can vary from year to year with weather conditions, so fine gradations seem rather meaningless. One thing is for sure--- all except coconut-haters should find this a delicious mango.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Things We Already Knew

recent study by Canadian scientists has revealed that living among trees is good for your health. More precisely, they found that after correcting for income, age, and education, residents of urban neighborhoods having just 10 more trees per city block had significantly better health outcomes--- comparable to the effect of an additional $10,000 of income or being 7 years younger.

The study was aided by the database that the city of Toronto keeps of its public trees--- 530,000 of them listed by species, location, and trunk diameter. I reckon that just living in a city that takes its trees that seriously would bring some kind of benefit.

One likely factor in the health boost is the improvement in air quality provided by the trees as they scrub ozone, particulates, and other pollutants from city air. Scientists also conjectured that the greenery acts to reduce stress and to increase one's desire to exercise. I'm not sure about the “desire” part, but fruit trees certainly do promote exercise, such as pruning, watering, fertilizing, freeze-protecting, and harvesting. As for the stress reduction, that can vary, depending on the incidence of squirrels, raccoons, insect pests, freezing weather, and mysterious overnight digging.

It would be easy to poke fun at the study, likening it to shockers such as “Scientists show that crying babies increase parental stress levels” or “Study finds no improvement in writing skills from frequent texting”. But having a quantitative measure of the benefit of urban trees is significant. It allows advocates for green space and city parks to argue on the basis of economic returns and not “just” spiritual benefits. But those of us who can feel the life force pouring off of a healthy fruit tree proudly displaying its bounty, or a magnificent live oak that has withstood a hundred years of Florida sun, wind, flood and drought, have always known that we belong in the midst of green life.

Sunday, July 12, 2015


The relatively new Angie mango variety has garnered considerable attention. Named after the wife of Bill Whitman, it was one of the “Curator's Choice” mangos sold at the 2014 Fairchild Mango Festival, and it's on this year's list as well. The Curator's Choice description of Angie is, well, enthusiastic:

'Angie' was selected for home garden and estate agriculture in South Florida due to its compact growth habit, disease tolerance and overall fruit quality. The fruit are 400 g, oblong and saffron yellow with Indian orange blush on the sun-exposed shoulders. The skin is smooth and without visible lenticels. The flesh is tangerine orange and without fiber. The flavor is classified in the 'Alphonso' class of mangos with a deep sweetness and sophisticated profile rich in apricot. The disease tolerance is excellent and given its early season it often can be harvested before the rainy season in South Florida. The tree is semi-dwarf and highly manageable with annual pruning. Size can be maintained at or below 3 m with consistent production.

Several posters at the Tropical Fruit Forum report that for them the Angie is more a mid-season fruiter. Many liken the fruit to a Carrie, apart from the appealing coloration which is a major plus for commercial growers.

The debate--- and there's always plenty of it at the Forum--- is whether Angie is truly a “top-tier” mango. Like Carrie, it has a unique flavor that many love, but a few find off-putting. There are several reports that the fruit is better the second year than the first, which seems to me to be a rather common occurrence with fruiting plants. Opinions about top-tierness vary, but except for the Carrie haters, most everyone considers Angie to be an excellent variety.

At the 2014 Festival, I bought a Manalita and a Neelum, and though pleased with them, I wished I had also bought an Angie. Based on the number of rave opinions at the Forum and the recommendation of Campbell and Ledesma--- and the fact that I have the loves-Carrie gene--- I decided to buy not one but two Angies from Larry this past spring. I'll be surprised if they don't turn out to be among my favorites.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Man From Manhattan

I spent one day of my life in Manhattan, Kansas, the home of Kansas State University. It was October 19, 1987. I remember the October 19 because it was my mother's birthday, and the 1987 because during my drive home to Oklahoma after giving a talk at the university, I listened to news coverage of the stock market crash. On that day, stock averages fell more than 20%. Experts later attributed most of the fall to the relatively new phenomenon of computer trading.

I hardly knew that almost three decades later, I would be writing about a man from Manhattan, David Fairchild. His father was professor of botany and later president of Kanasa State, and young David grew up surrounded by scientists and scholars. He completed Bachelor's and Master's degrees at the university before leaving for the wider world.

After further education in the U. S. and Europe, Fairchild became the principal plant hunter for the U. S. Department of Agriculture. As leader of numerous expeditions throughout the world, he brought back many thousands species and varieties of plants. His impact on the development of agriculture in the U. S. is beyond measure.

In 1905, he married Marian, daughter of well-known tech entrepreneur Alexander Graham Bell. MRFC members who attended Larry Schokman's 2013 presentation to our club know about the Kampong, the remarkable residence, research facility, and botanical park that the Fairchilds developed in Coconut Grove, Florida. They lived there from 1928 until their passing in mid-century.

Fairchild had a much smaller role in his namesake Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. It was established in 1936 by accountant, educator, and businessman William Montgomery, who named it in honor of the great horticulturalist.

David Fairchild had many achievements, from serving as President of the American Genetic Society to spearheading the establishment of Everglades National Park. But he is best remembered as the greatest plant hunter in American history. In the words of Larry Schokman, “The long distances involved, the different people, the strange foods that he ate, the unusual sights, sounds, and aromas, only whetted his curiosity instead of dulling it. He referred to the world as 'my Garden'”.