Ark of Taste
Mangifera indica, cv. Hatcher
The Hatcher mango is a cultivar unique to South Florida. The variety is very prolific and yields unusually large, blemish-free fruits that can weigh 2-3 pounds or more. The fruit has a beautiful skin: pale green shading to yellow, with a bright orange-red flush; the seed inside is small compared to other mangoes and relative to the percentage of edible orange-colored flesh.
Mangos are native to India and Southeast Asia but have been grown in Florida since the 1800s. Florida mangos are currently being grown commercially mainly in Miami-Dade County, in an area known as The Redland, and also in Palm Beach County and on Pine Island. Florida has produced some of the most important commercial mango cultivars in the world.
The Hatcher was developed by John Hatcher in Palm Beach County in the 1940s and has proven to be a valuable and much-appreciated cultivar. The Hatcher is an offspring of a Florida seedling mango that first fruited in the 1940s in a nursery owned by John and Pearl Hatcher in Lantana, Florida. Once John realized the delicious eating quality of his fruit, he propagated it and proceeded to plant a four-acre mango orchard that he proudly named Hatcher’s Mango Hill.
The grove is located on a sandy ridge only a few miles from the Atlantic Ocean, which provides ideal conditions for growing mangos. Mangos thrive in the areas nearer to the coast since the drier conditions help to reduce the main scourge of mango growers in Florida, the fungal disease known as “anthracnose.” The Hatcher family is able to grow their mangos without the use of copper fungicide sprays, which are an absolute necessity in the wetter growing regions. In addition, the local sandy soils provide the perfect drainage conditions.
Over the years, the Hatcher’s managed a roadside stand and their prized fruit became very popular with locals and winter visitors alike. It is now being shipped to customers all over the United States. Demand for the fruit consistently exceeds production. The Hatcher family also sells grafted trees of this variety direct from the grove to backyard growers in Florida during the summer months.
Most of the mangos sold in markets today are imported from South America, Mexico, or the Caribbean and are harvested prematurely to allow for the longer transit time and extended shelf life. This does not allow them to develop the necessary sugars and therefore most have little flavor. Imported mangoes must also be treated in a hot-water bath before they are allowed into the U.S.; native mangoes are not subject to these rules. Local groves like the Hatchers offer tree- ripened fruits that are sold in a peak condition of flavor and quality.
The delicious sweet, rich and moist orange flesh is remarkably non-fibrous and tastes of honey, vanilla and jasmine with a lingering tropical aftertaste. It can be eaten fresh out of hand or made into shakes or smoothies. These can be very large mangos weighing up to three pounds or more. The pulp also freezes nicely and will keep for several months.
Even though there are probably hundreds of backyard trees in addition to the grove in Lantana, the Hatcher has remained relatively unknown among the large commercial mango growers in South Dade County. The Hatcher grove remains at high risk since their four-acre property is threatened by encroaching development and obstacles like high property taxes and hurricanes, which have wreaked havoc among many long-time fruit grove owners in South Florida (most recently in 2004 and 2005). It is essential that the Hatcher be recognized as a superior Florida mango cultivar so that future generations will be able to savor this tropical treat.