The gold rush in Australia is far from over. In fact if you are in Darwin at this time of the year, it is only just beginning. Recently, after 37 hours in transit from NYC, what I thought was the sandy irritation of jet lag in my eyes was actually the beginning of gold fever. Mango fever. Golden, luscious, six-is-never-enough mango fever. Once it takes hold you cannot leave the house without a picker. You cannot start the day without a smoothie, or some mango muesli, and you certainly cannot say no to mango cheesecake ( NY style of course ). Cooking mango leather or cutting moons and mezzalunas from perfectly ripe fruit is equally satisfying – although mostly in silence, as each new piece offers the hushed anticipation of finding glowing yellow under dark green skin. My sister Therese has the gift, she is a mango whisperer who talks Humpty Doo and KPs ( Kensington Prides ) with an urgent passion. The season is short and time is of the essence. Once the collusive cartels of bats and mango geese move in, the game is all over.
The process of extracting the gold is not without risk. Some trees shimmy with the warning of thousands of insects as you approach, and the biggest mangoes are invariable in the heavens where the green ants dream. When awakened they stream relentlessly towards you down the 20 foot length of your extended picker, tactical and determined to hold position. But with a nugget of at least a kilo to be scored, the reward defies you to call ‘chicken’ before maneuvering the mango to safety.
Fortunately in the Top End there are outstanding recreational remedies for the fever, where picking, peeling and drying can rule your life 24 hours a day. Two thousand feet in the air in a vintage WW1 aircraft – and in the hands of the aerobatic Biggles of the biosphere, you can momentarily lose your fixation. Focusing on the horizon may even be challenging. What an experience! There I was feeling perfectly relaxed, feet around the gun portals enjoying the view, when we suddenly barreled with G forces that tripled my body weight – in complete opposition of course to a prime mango that loses 100 grams a day once past the peak. Who’s an addict? In the gold fields, the scales tell the story.
Speaking of which, Ed, the Territory’s mango mentor, has much advice on the joys of mango addiction. At any one time in the height of the season he has about 900 kilos of the best KP’s rotating through his driveway. He knows his product. But even though he, supposedly ( there were no witnesses ), trumped my 1.2 kilo record for the biggest mango of the season, there is always next year…. and the year after that….