During spring and early summer, Father Fanuel – my host father – and I often went in the back garden together to check on the mangos as they developed, pulling back the springy branches to see the young fruits nestled within the tree’s waxy leaves. Always pleased with their progress, Father Fanuel would declare solemnly, “No, Thabo, it’s fine,” then break into a hearty chuckle and a wide, honest smile.
Excellent mangos grow here in Reedview’s subtropical climate, with its rainy summer and relatively mild winter. Many families have a mango tree or two in their yard. Ours grows right outside my bedroom window, between the peach tree and the pomegranate tree. Green, mangos can be pickled with peri-peri and oil to make atchaar, a spicy relish di monate with braii chicken and bogobe, and just about everything else. Ripe, they make a delightful snack in the heat of the afternoon, their orange flesh sweet and succelent, bursting with juice. There’s really only one way to eat a mango, and it is rather undignified: leaning directly over the kitch basin, so that it – rather than your shirt – catches the syrupy liquid dribbling from your chin.
Now summer draws to a close, and with it mango season. Though the days are as hot as ever, the warm, worn yellows of autumn have begun to replace the lush greens of midsummer. It will be months before we pick another mango. In the mean time Father Fanuel and I will keep a close watch on the little mango tree in the back garden.