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Mango Mountain

Garth Brown |

As of this writing, it is unclear whether twenty tons of free mangoes are a blessing or a curse. They arrived three days ago in a refrigerated tractor trailer. It had already been on the road for more than a week, traveling from somewhere in Mexico up to the Bronx. But on inspection the fruit had been deemed too ripe, so if we hadn’t been willing to take it the next stop would have been a landfill.

Unloading was harrowing. Several of the pallets had shifted in the course of their long journey, which meant the already unstable stacks of boxes were ready to collapse at the slightest mishandling. I got a couple down before one rocked and toppled, which, to the delight of my children, sent fruit rolling across the driveway as the whole thing crashed to the ground. Luckily, Ed had a better knack for it than me, and he managed to get the remainder out, though a couple times the driver and I had to stabilize particularly precarious pallets as he inched them down.

The pigs are getting all they can eat, but our herd won’t make it through this kind of volume fast enough. So we’ve put the word out that anyone can come help themselves, and down by the road this excessive, soon-to-expire bounty has created a slow motion festivity, as neighbors known and unknown stop by to fill up trunks and trucks and marvel at the sheer volume of fruit.

But days of sun and summer heat have not done favors to mangoes that were dead ripe when they arrived. Thunderstorms overnight further weakened stacks of boxes, so only one pallet is actually in its original, orderly arrangement. Most are now jumbled piles of cardboard and fruit. Decomposition is speeding up, with flies and wasps beginning to congregate. I’m no prophet, but I foresee a day - let’s call it Monday - when the whole lot will take a decided turn.

The pigs won’t mind for a little bit after that, but the upshot is that there is going to be a massive pile of rotting fruit by the farm entrance sooner rather than later. While I’m sure most people understand that farming doesn’t always smell like buttercups and Chanel No. 5, this nevertheless isn’t ideal. The plan is to consolidate the individual pallets into one big mound, which will be covered with a thick layer of wood chips until it has decomposed, at which point it can be spread on pasture or in the garden.

Right now the difficulties of dealing with such a quantity of highly perishable fruit seems worth it. Both our pigs and the populace of central New York are getting all the mangoes they can eat, and we’ve kept a bunch of easily compostable stuff out of a landfill. Hopefully in a couple weeks when I’m staring down at mango mountain I’ll still feel the same way.

Garth Brown

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