Hunting for Mangoes in South Florida

Culinary Contraband


Humidity and heat are all relative in South Florida. Compared to February, a night in June is hotter than a pot of simmering conch chowder, but as opposed to August, it is like swimming in a bowl of gazpacho. There is that magical time of day, right before dusk, when the sun has dropped just enough that it doesn't feel as if it were trying to burn the skin right off your body and the mosquitoes that infest this once-swampland have not begun to bury a tunnel through you to get at your bone marrow. It was this time of day my friends Deborah and Kerry led Patrick and me through the historic district of Sailboat Bend in Fort Lauderdale in search of mangoes, glad for the slower traffic and shade as we left Cooley's Landing Marina on our bicycles through the tree-canopied streets.

"The best-tasting mangoes are the ones you steal." Kerry's voice was low and conspiratorial as he spoke over his shoulder from the bicycle ahead of mine. The words floated on the still air back to his wife who trailed behind me, looking up at the overhanging tree canopy for signs of the golden fruits hanging heavy.

"We aren't stealing," she corrected with a laugh. "We are foraging." Her eyes never looked down to the road ahead; they stayed glued to the treetops. I glanced up. Royal poinciana trees exploded in fiery orange blossoms through their feathery leaves right next to the splatters of lilac of the jacaranda trees. I couldn't see a single mango. Unlike Deborah, this was my first mango hunt, and I had not yet trained my eye to spot the clusters. She had grown up in Fort Lauderdale and ridden these streets every year in search of the sweet treats. Her mental memory map knew where the best-tasting ones grew and could navigate the winding narrow streets without paying attention to where she were going, but I had to keep reverting my attention to the road ahead as not to plow into the back of Kerry. My next glance skyward revealed an overhang of thick elongated emerald leaves. Dotted throughout, oblong yellow fruit weighed the branches.

"There's some!" I pointed upward excited to spot my first fruit and swiveled on my seat, proud, to show Deborah. That tree isn't worth it. She shook her head with the authority of a seasoned mango hunter. When it comes to the best-tasting mangoes in South Florida in the month of June you can afford to be picky and pass by the obvious ones. A mango tree, when in fruit, can produce up to 200 mangoes at a time, making it almost impossible for one person to consume them all. It was as if we were doing the neighborhood a favor by taking some of its abundance ... at least, that's what I was telling myself.

"There is more meat on the Haden variety. That's the one we like." Over the years I'd learned more about life in Florida from Deborah than any book I'd read, and this year, I was learning about mangoes. "They are juicier and have more flesh."

Ahead, Kerry checked both left and right before entering an overgrown alley. He glanced back over his shoulder checking if we were being followed like an informant worried who was listening.

"Here it is." He whispered once we got to his favorite secret spot. "The one in this alleyway are the best-tasting public ones in the neighborhood." We may be on a scavenger hunt but none of us wanted to be arrested for breaking into yards to steal fruit.

Scattered on the path and hidden in the overgrown grasses dozens of mangoes, all with a crimson blush, lay in wait for us. "You have to get to them before the raccoons and insects." Kerry used the toe of his running shoe to roll one over for inspection revealing the half-eaten underside swarming with ants. Thick yellowy juice oozed from the gaping hole in the skin revealing perfect ripeness and lost tastiness to the creatures whom had gotten there first.

As if on cue, above us the branches shook as a large fury mass ran along a limb. Half a dozen red and golden mangoes rained from the tree and dropped at our feet in response to the jostling and weight of what I hoped was a raccoon and not one of south Florida's other rodents. Deborah parked her bike against the fence and pulled a plastic bag from the basket on front. Perfect timing. She gathered the large untouched tropical treasures and handed them to me. I already have too many piled on my table at home.

My mind raced with ideas on what to do with our bounty. I felt like I were misquoting Forrest Gump while rattling off all the mango recipes I knew. "Mango salsa with black beans and avocado, mango chutney for grilled chicken, mango-coconut upside down cake, mangoes poached in sweet red wine over vanilla ice cream, mango bread---"

Deborah laughed again. "I usually just stand over the sink eating them." With our loot stashed in the bags, we snuck out of the alley as stealthily as we entered. As we rode back through the neighborhood toward the marina with our smuggled goods, I checked my watch in the burgeoning moonlight and couldn't help but think of the time involved in preparing each of the recipes. Deborah was right. Mangoes need not be baked or messed with to taste better. I smiled, knowing that within minutes, I, too, would have juice running down my elbows as I sucked the pits over the sink. After all, my first rule in cooking has always been to follow the advice of a local.

Related Articles
St. Patrick’s Day Cocktails

Drunken Leprechaun

St. Patty's Day cocktail | Canva

“What do we do with a drunken leprechaun? Early in the morning!” 

The same way mysteries of mischievous leprechauns in Irish folklore have transcended through time, the original recipe for this drink is also a mystery. A few variations of this St. Patty’s-themed cocktail are served in local pubs, but most of them include its most important ingredient — good ol’ Irish whiskey. Like a fun twist on the Irish Screwdriver, check out our favorite version of this green concoction.


2 oz Irish Whiskey

1 oz Blue Curaçao

3-4 oz orange juice

Orange wedge(s)


Fill a cocktail glass with ice and add whiskey, Blue Curaçao and orange juice. Stir well and garnish with a fresh orange wedge.

Emerald Sunrise

This drink is not Irish, but its green color makes for a perfect St. Patty’s Day drink to enjoy at sea. Using the same ingredients but replacing whiskey with tequila, try another easy twist on the classic recipe for a Tequila Sunrise. Sail off toward the horizon while enjoying this beachy beverage.


2 oz Blanco Tequila

1 oz Blue Curaçao

3-4 oz orange juice

1 lime and 1 orange wedge


Fill a cocktail glass with ice and add tequila, Blue Curaçao and orange juice. Stir well and garnish with a fresh lime and orange wedge.

Read More
Valentine’s Day Cocktails

Heartbreak Harbor Margarita | Sirikunkrittaphuk from Getty Images

Heartbreak Harbor Margarita

For the salty sailor who could use a sweet kick on V-day, this sweet yet tart drink is perfect for your anti-Valentine’s Day party. This ocean-inspired twist on the classic margarita also makes for a perfect waterside cocktail.


1 ½ oz blanco tequila

1 oz Blue Curaçao 

¾ oz freshly squeezed lime juice

Splash of orange juice

Kosher salt

1 lime and 1 orange wedge


For a salted rim, fill a small plate with lime juice and swirl your glass rim in it, then dip it into a plate of margarita salt and fill your glass with ice. In a separate cocktail shaker with a light amount of ice, pour in tequila, Blue Curaçao, lime juice and a splash of orange juice.  Shake thoroughly and strain into your glass and garnish with a lime or orange.

The Love Boat

Also known as “The Isaac,” this romantic red drink was created by original Love Boat cast member Ted Lange, who played Isaac the bartender. Inspired by his signature bright red jacket mixed with the show’s sweet theme, the delicious libation is a perfect Valentine’s Day cocktail for boat lovers.


2 oz white rum

2 oz pomegranate syrup

½ oz fresh lime juice

Splash of club soda

Lime slice(s)

2 pineapple leaf spears


Fill highball glass with ice. In separate cocktail shaker, fill with ice, white rum, pomegranate syrup and lime juice. Shake and strain into highball glass and top it with a splash of club soda. Garnish with a fresh lime slice and two pineapple spears.

*Check out a special segment from Princess Cruises where actor Ted Lange gives a demo of the Love Boat cocktail that debuted on the cruise line in 2015.

Read More
Rum, Reggae & Spies!
The beach at Fleming Villa | Source GoldenEye

In my quest for the best Caribbean Rum, I’ve sampled a few. From Appleton to Ron Zacapa rum, my tastebuds have celebrated the luscious flavors borne from fermenting sugarcane into smooth amber elixirs.

In the pursuit of rum perfection, I’ve noticed that a well-designed label can give clues about what awaits inside the bottle. Many simply present the distiller’s name and location where a rum derives its unique flavors. But it’s hard to resist the image of a crusty old captain, pirate ship or sassy sea wench when pouring a hefty splash into a tumbler.

Curious rum aficionados like myself are always eager to hear the back story behind the libation in our hand. Like a slice of pineapple or lime wedged upon the rim of a glass, the history of a rum’s journey from the Caribbean to our lips can make a cocktail taste even sweeter.

I recently stumbled upon the extraordinary tale that intertwines Jamaican rum, world- class musicians and James Bond. To fully appreciate this unique saga, follow my lead and shake up a GoldenEye Cocktail (see recipe below) to sip while the story unfolds.


James Bond Dr No Poster Credit Flickr

Our story begins in 1939, when a London journalist named Ian Fleming joined the British Navy Intelligence Service. His unit specialized in military espionage and covert plans to thwart German aggression in Europe and the Caribbean.

During World War II, Fleming was engaged in Operation GoldenEye, and in 1942 he was sent to investigate suspicions about Nazi submarines in the Caribbean. During this deployment, he became enamored with Jamaica and vowed to live there some day.

When the war was over, Fleming returned to Jamaica and bought 15 acres of plush land that was once used as a donkey racetrack. In 1945, he built a house not far from the banana port town of Oracabessa Bay, and the seaside property became Fleming’s tropical sanctuary where he could focus on writing and the discrete task of taking previously tight-held secrets into a public, fictional genre.

He named the estate GoldenEye as a tribute to his Navy service and began working on a book that evolved around the dashing spy and Special Agent 007, James Bond. This protagonist would emerge as the amalgamation of agents he’d met during his maritime service. As an avid birdwatcher, Fleming took the name for his lead character from American ornithologist James Bond, an expert on Caribbean birds, who wrote the definitive field guide, Birds of the West Indies.

Fleming’s first spy novel, Casino Royale, was published in 1952. This book and all 13 in the James Bond series were written in his bedroom at GoldenEye. Three of them — Dr. No, Live and Let Die, and The Man with the Golden Gun — take place in Jamaica.


Chris Blackwell | Credit GoldenEye

Not only did the breezy island life at GoldenEye inspire Fleming’s novels, but so did his fetching neighbor, Blanche Blackwell. She was the muse who helped spark his creative drive. The Blackwell family had lived in Jamaica since 1625, exporting bananas and coconuts and crafting a distinctive brand of rum.

Blanche’s son Chris Blackwell grew up between England and Jamaica, and in his childhood spent a good amount of time with Fleming. In 1954, after Blackwell got booted from an elite British school for rebellious behavior, he came back to the island to get involved in the family rum business. Contrary to plan, he followed his instincts and made a career choice that would dramatically alter the global music scene.

For a while, he kicked around working as the aide-de-camp to the governor and as a waterskiing instructor. But after hearing the blind pianist Lance Heywood play at the Half Moon Resort, Blackwell recorded the musician, and in 1959 he launched a music studio called Island Records. In sync with his unconventional style, it became known for discovering and nurturing innovative performers who had been shrugged off or overlooked by bigger record labels.

Island Records introduced the world outside of the Caribbean to Bob Marley and the Wailers and Jamaican reggae music, showcasing island culture and universal struggles of indigenous people. It launched British bands such as Traffic, Bad Company, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Roxy Music, King Crimson and Fairport Convention. It also cultivated artists such as Cat Stevens, Brian Eno, Grace Jones, Marianne Faithfull, Tom Waits and the Irish band, U2.

Throughout his success in the music industry, Blackwell remained in contact with Fleming and his projects. When the first Bond movie, Dr. No, was filmed in Jamaica in 1962, Blackwell was hired as a location scout and consulted on the soundtrack. Sir Sean Connery, whom Blackwell had met during the filming of Dr. No, remained a friend until his passing in 2020. Using a family recipe, Blackwell launched his boutique rum in 2008 that is distributed around the globe.

Live and Let Die was filmed in 1973 on the Blackwell Estate, which now includes The Fleming Villa. Scenes from the movie were shot near GoldenEye, Blackwell’s luxury hotel in Jamaica. The latest Bond flick, No Time to Die, returns to the exquisite Jamaican backdrop of GoldenEye, and the production team was treated to a supply of Blackwell Rum for inspiration while filming.

TO CELEBRATE 60 YEARS OF JAMES BOND, a special bottle of Blackwell Rum has been released, along with a new memoir by Chris Blackwell, The Islander: My Life in Music and Beyond. If you’re cruising around Jamaica this winter, cue up some Bob Marley tunes, open a bottle of Blackwell’s 007 Rum, and shake it (don’t stir) with pineapple juice and ice to create the GoldenEye Cocktail. And if you’re nestled in at home in a colder climate and dreaming about the Caribbean, we suggest watching a Bond flick and warming up with the Toasted Toddy.

GoldenEye | Credit GoldenEye



-1 part Blackwell Rum

-1 part pineapple juice

-Lime or pineapple wedge


Shake together and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with lime or pineapple wedge

Toasty Toddy | Credit GoldenEye



-3 parts Blackwell Rum

-2 teaspoons brown sugar

-1 1⁄2 parts fresh lemon juice

-6 parts boiling water


Add all ingredients to a mug, except for the water. Pour in the boiling water, Stir well to blend

Read More

Want to Stay In the Loop?

Stay up to date with the latest articles, news and all things boating with a FREE subscription to Marinalife Magazine!

Thanks for subscribing!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Marinalife articles