Mango Season In Hawaii: Why 2022 Was Such A Huge Year - Civil Beat

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About the Author

Denby Fawcett

Denby Fawcett is a longtime Hawaii television and newspaper journalist, who grew up in Honolulu. Her book, Secrets of Diamond Head: A History and Trail Guide is available on Amazon. Opinions are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat’s views.

Donna Ching remembers the summer months when she was growing up in Pearl City in the 1960s when there were mango windfalls. They lived near the cane haul road where mangoes often dropped down on the dirt by the hundreds.

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She says neighbors would leave bulging paper bags of mangoes on her parents’ back porch and then run away.

“They took off running because they were worried my parents would say ‘No thank you. We already have enough mangoes,’” she recalls.

This summer is like that. Too many mangoes.

Last week when sitting at a table outside Coffee Talk in Kaimuki, a man in a truck pulled up by the curb to offer mangoes to cafe owner Liz Schwartz. “No thanks,” said Schwartz, “I already have lots on my counter at home.”

Architect John Black says he picked 120 Haden mangoes off his tree this weekend. He is giving them to everybody he knows, including me.

In Kahala, Pia Solywoda says, “I’ve been picking up 20-25 massive sweet Haden mangoes daily. No trouble giving away dozens at a clip to grateful friends and neighbors, but I’ve been slicing, peeling, and freezing them in Ziploc bags for several weeks. I’ll have smoothie fodder for the next several years.”

mangoes mango trees
A tree in Kapahulu is laden with mangoes. Denby Fawcett/Civil Beat/2022

Oahu isn’t the only island with mango bumper crops. Destiny Aponte of Kahului, Maui, wrote in answer to my query on Facebook that her tree is dropping 20 to 30 pounds of common mangoes a day.

“I was able to give some away in the beginning, but now the tree is producing more than we can harvest,” she says. “It’s insane. At night I can hear the mangoes falling.”

Mark Suiso, owner of Makaha Mangoes, has been a commercial grower for 20 years. He says this is the best season for Haden mangoes in a long time, and the fruit was ready to harvest in early April when he normally has to wait until June to pick it.

mangoes mango trees
Maui also is having a bumper crop of mangoes. Chef/farmer Destiny Aponte gives the fruit to friends, neighbors and homeless people. Courtesy: Destiny Aponte

He says the reason for the bonanza this year is a spell of cool dry weather in the spring that triggered the mango flowers to blossom early on trees, followed by a steady sunny spell that helped the fruit to rapidly flourish.

And now another cool dry spell has been followed by steady sun to generate a second outpouring of fruit that Suiso says he started picking this month — a harvest he expects to last through July.

When there are a lot of mangoes, mango theft follows. There’s the small kind with people sneaking into yards to snatch a few, or the big time when thieves strip mango trees bare for fruit to sell.

I see small handwritten signs in front yards saying do not take the mangoes or ask first if you want to pick some.

Michael Kitchens, the founder of the popular Facebook site Stolen Stuff Hawaii, says he has received three postings this year from mango tree owners saying thieves have stripped their trees of fruit. He speculates that even more thefts are occurring because not every tree owner who has been hit by mango scroungers posts it on social media.

Stolen Stuff Hawaii is dedicated to helping people in Hawaii to post information when there’s been an alleged crime in their area. It is a kind of online neighborhood watch.

Kitchens says each posting of a mango freeloading always generates lively discussion on the site. Some people think it’s OK to lean into a yard to take mangoes if the owner has an obvious surplus while others argue that it’s theft and still wrong.

Honolulu Police Department spokeswoman Michelle Yu says HPD has received two fruit theft reports this year from a commercial mango farm in Wahiawa. She says there could be even more thefts because mango heists from private gardens often go unreported.

mangoes please don't take mangoes Denby Fawcett mango tree
A sign in front of a home in Honolulu asks passersby not to take the mangoes. Denby Fawcett/Civil Beat/2022

Suiso, who grew up in Makaha, began selling mangoes when he was about eight years old, hawking the fruit from a box he set up in his parents’ front yard.

He says mango theft is a continuing problem and this year he expects it to get worse because there are so many mangoes sitting on the ground.

Older residents whose kids have moved away or people working many jobs can have a difficult time keeping up with the fruit as it falls. It’s also harder to pick off their trees when they get too tall.

When passersby spot driveways and front lawns lined with fallen mangoes, they are tempted to walk in and take them even though that is trespassing and stealing. They figure the homeowner doesn’t want the fruit.

Suiso says a sad issue is that some mango tree owners eventually get fed up and chop down their beautiful old trees because they don’t have the time or energy to keep up with the falling fruit and leaves.

He says he sees that happening especially with older people whose adult children have moved away and can no longer help them harvest the fruit, and with people who are taking down trees in their backyards to make more space to enlarge their houses.

Yet, Suiso says another hopeful phenomenon has emerged during the coronavirus pandemic: increasing numbers of people want to start growing food crops in their yards, including by planting young fruit trees.

mangoes mango trees prices supermarket
Despite the bumper crop, supermarkets are selling mangoes for high prices. Denby Fawcett/Civil Beat/2022

“By being cooped up in their homes during Covid, they started to realize the value of home-growing vegetables and fruit in their gardens; it saves money and there is a definite pride in growing your own food and something larger: the joy of having food, especially colorful mangoes to give away to family and friends that helps build community,” Suiso says.

Suiso says he is having a difficult time keeping up with orders from people calling him to buy young mango trees to plant.

Ken Love, owner of Love Family Farms in Kona and the executive director of Hawaii Tropical Fruit Growers, says demand also is heavy on Hawaii island.

In the last two years, he says he has sold 5,000 mango tree plants for $25 each in keeping with the nonprofit HTFG’s mission to promote the proliferation of tropical fruit trees in the islands.

“I am completely sold out,” he says.

Love says the new interest in growing mango trees and other vegetables at home that picked up during the pandemic is sparked by people eager to have more control over how their food is produced and their concern about rapidly rising food prices.

So while many mango trees in old neighborhoods like Kaimuki and Kalihi have been chopped down because people no longer want to manage them or developers need room for the next new monster house, it is comforting to discover that young fruit trees are sprouting up in other neighborhoods across the islands, planted in the spirit of sustainability and generosity.

I raise a mango martini made from the juice of Hadens from my neighbor’s tree to toast the king of fruit, the mango, the jewel of summer. May you survive forever.

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About the Author

Denby Fawcett

Denby Fawcett is a longtime Hawaii television and newspaper journalist, who grew up in Honolulu. Her book, Secrets of Diamond Head: A History and Trail Guide is available on Amazon. Opinions are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat’s views.

Latest Comments (0)

If you have an elderly neighbor or someone who needs help with cleaning up fallen mangoes, offer to help! You can trade work for mangoes, and it's really appreciated.

fiona · 1 year ago

Sad to say when I was growing up my home had several trees and we cut them down but for two that shelter from storms. But I remember years when I had no mangoes at all. Not from lack of them on the trees but when they got remotely ripe people stole them. I got rousted out from sleep by people harvesting my trees. When I turn on the flood lights everyone ran. My neighbor once caught a couple waiting at a nearby bus stop (so much for a quick get away) with bags she saw them load up from her yard in broad daylight. Now we have to deal with parrots feasting on the mangoes as well. All the time I spend pruning, grooming for fruit and cleaning goes for naught. So I gave up trying to actively grow fruits. I prune the trees down to nothing. If they come afterwards I’m glad. If not no big deal.

CKMsurf · 1 year ago

I have several half century old mango trees that give an abundance of fruit that more often than not make a mess and stink after falling. The leaves keep me raking year round. I hate it. The main reason I don't cut them down is that they provide year round cooling especially the summers in Makaha. Not to mention the CO2 sink it provides to the earth. So yeah, I love them for that.

oldsurfa · 1 year ago

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