The mango tree is my favorite fruit tree followed by lychee, Fuji apple, nectarine, Bartlett pear, peach and plum.
When we were kids, my brother Ben and I looked forward every summer to that box of “broke da mouth” Hayden mangos Uncle Al and Aunty Fannie would send us by U.S. Mail from ‘Opihi Street in ‘Āina Haina.
That box was special, so special we gave it a “red carpet” welcome. Our dad would pick it up at the post office. He’d put it on the flat bed of his Model A jalopy. When I think about it, we should have draped the box with a fl ag. He’d bring it home and set it on the kitchen table with great care. Ben and I would stand around the table, admiring the box and salivating with anticipation.
The drama at this point would intensify. The old man would take out his pocket knife, lift the blade and rub it on his trousers. Already razor sharp, he’d sharpen it a bit more. Then he’d make some Houdini-like gestures over the box. He, I know, was killing time to augment our anticipation. He was purposely “killing us.” The moment we were waiting for fi nally came. By now, no more than three minutes had elapsed but it felt like three hours. With his small knife and big hands, he’d slowly cut the thick string and rip the packing tape off of the once secure box and pull open the flaps. A sweet mango fragrance would come gushing from the box.
Next, came the big moment we had been impatiently waiting for. Buried in that box was ‘Āina Haina Gold tinged in a few select rainbow colors. Light pinks and lavender, soft greens, mustard and neon yellows, burgundy and ruby reds. We were allowed to reach into the box and rummage oh so carefully through it to find two mangos (Ben one, me one). There usually were twenty Hayden mangos in the box. Each gingerly wrapped in newspaper to keep them from rubbing and bruising and bouncing around in transit on their three day journey from East Honolulu to South Kohala.
I’d select my mango, peel off the paper it was encased in and give it a thorough look over. I would tumble it around in my hands and sniff it. The aroma was both intoxicating and breath- taking. I’d rub my mango like I was rubbing a magic lamp. Like I was hoping a genie would emerge. I was never disappointed with my selection. I don’t think Ben was either with his choice.
Four years ago, we were in Costa Rica for our youngest son’s wedding. Like Hawai‘i, Costa Rica is a beautiful country with beautiful people. One of the many things that intrigued me about this Central American nation were the roadside fruit stands. A Hayden mango the size of an extra-large softball cost fifty cents. Yes, fi fty cents, for a sweet, juicy, all-you-can-eat Hayden mango.
In Waimea, at our local market, a softball size Hayden sells for fi ve dollars. A mango picked green and imported from a foreign land. When I look at these overpriced, worn out, odorless mangos, my mind races “back to the future,” to those mango fi lled boxes we received (and ritualized) every summer from Uncle Al and Auntie Fannie’s mango tree. I hope their tree is still standing and if it is that it’s still blessing folks as it did us with its mouthwatering bounty.
Factoid: The first mango trees arrived in Hawai‘i in 1824 from India and the Philippines.
Note: Trustee columns represent the views of individual trustees and may not reflect the official positions adopted by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs Board of Trustees.