Illustration by Steve Asbell

Because I love you so, my faithful and uber-intelligent readers, my post today has a two-fold purpose -- to engender within you a passion for the world's most delicious fruit and to introduce you to a young botanical artist who enjoys drawing delicious fruit as much as he does eating it.

The Mango -- A Gift from Heaven The Bible says Eve tempted Adam with an apple. Grumpy has no wish to challenge the accuracy of this account, but can't help but wonder if, given the semi-tropical location of the garden of Eden, the apple was really a mango. For a ripe mango is the most sensual and tempting of all fruits. Its skin marries colors of red, purple, pink, orange, yellow, and green. Its heady perfume fills a room. The custard-like golden or orange flesh melts in your mouth. And the flavor -- truly no other fruit matches the complexity. It combines peach, pineapple, honey, kiwi, melon, citrus, and spicy, flowery notes. A good mango makes you swoon.

Which is why Grumpy thinks the mango (Mangifera indica) must have originated in the Garden of Eden. It is too much for human frailty to resist. I once did a story for Southern Living about mangoes and visited this country's foremost authority on them -- Dr. Richard Campbell, curator of the tropical fruit collection at the Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden in Coral Gables, Florida. Richard told me that the mango brought he and his wife together. After he saw her eating a ripe mango -- aromatic juice dribbling from her chin -- he knew he must marry her.

Passion Flower. Illustration by Steve Asbell.

Passion Flower. .

But before I continue on about the mango, let me interject a beautiful illustration that has nothing to do with mangoes. You'll see why later. Behold the most beautiful flower in the world -- the passion flower!

Can You Grow Mangoes? Sensitivity to cold limits growing mango trees in the ground to places with semi-tropical and tropical climates, like south Florida, south Texas, Arizona, and southern California. But because most mangoes are self-fruitful (don't need a pollinator to bear fruit) and very productive, many of them make good container trees you can take indoors for winter. You just have to plant a variety that can be kept to 6 to 8 feet tall, such as 'Cogshall,' 'Fairchild,' 'Graham,' and 'Rosigold.' They like full sun and well-drained soil.

'Yellow Pear' tomatoes. Illustration by Steve Asbell.

'Yellow Pear' tomatoes. .

OK, time for another totally unrelated illustration! How do you like 'Yellow Pear' tomatoes on the left? I think they look like those yellow light bulbs people install on their porches to keep from attracting bugs at night. I guess moths and beetles don't like tomatoes. I mean, that's the obvious conclusion.

Then Just Eat Mangoes! Apples and mangoes share something else beside the garden of Eden. The most popular and widely available varieties are not the best tasting. In apples, that's the 'Red Delicious.' In mangoes, that's 'Tommy Atkins.' Their ubiquity in supermarkets is due to their pretty appearance and knack for shipping well. But their taste -- bleh.

So when you're in the market and have a choice, reject 'Tommy Atkins' for one of the mangoes mentioned above. Also look for 'Angie,' 'Graham,' 'Ice Cream,' and 'Mallika.'

One last tip. Always use the buddy system when tasting a ripe mango from a standing position. You need someone to catch you when you swoon.

Meet the Artist

Steve Asbell swallowed by elephant's-ears. Gulp.

Grumpy can draw flies easier than draw a circle, so he really appreciates those with the talent. All of the illustrations on this post are the handiwork of a young friend of mine barely out of kindergarten named Steve Asbell. Steve lives in Jacksonville, Florida with a beautiful, young wife he wisely keeps hidden away, and has a passion for semi-tropical plants. He's planted up his entire apartment complex with exotic-looking plants, so it looks like Jurassic Park, only without the velociraptors. Lucky for him -- he's snack-size.

Mixed veggies. Illustration by Steve Asbell.

Mixed veggies. .

Steve draws all sorts of different plants and features of plants. Grumpy judges his work to be "most excellent" and the perfect gift idea for anyone who loves plants. Wouldn't a framed print of something like this look great on the wall of your kitchen, breakfast nook, den, sun porch, garden shed, or survival bunker? You bet it would!

Steve also does illustrations for websites, blogs, garden companies, etc. If you'd like to see more of his work, check out his blog, The Rainforest Garden. He has way too much free time on his hands.