November 10, 2020

How to grow your own Thai mangoes

Keen but novice gardeners, especially with tropical plants, the thought of growing mango – our favourite fruit – is astonishing.

This post may contain affiliate links, from which I receive a small commission on any resulting purchases at no cost to the customer. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. It keeps The Koh Samui Guide ad-free, never sponsored and 100% independent. See privacy policy for more details.

How to grow mango from seed

While most of us from the northern half of the world learn to count using apples and oranges, mangoes remain slightly exotic. Keen but novice gardeners, especially with tropical plants, the thought of growing mango – our favourite fruit – is astonishing.

Much like growing our own dragon fruit (a thankless enterprise performed only for curiosity’s sake), we have a long wait until we can call them trees – or expect any fruit. All the same, allow us to introduce our mango babies.

How to grow a mango from seed

Step 0: Involve children

Growing mangoes would be a fantastic project to do with kids – as you’ll soon see why. (Probably best that each child has his own mango seed).

Step 1: Buy mangoes

For comparison’s sake, we bought two varieties of mango at Koh Samui's Tesco ('nam doc mai' and 'khaew sawei', both Thai varieties). However, as mentioned in 'Mango 101' at the end of this post, there are as many as 500 mango varieties – so perhaps you can find something really interesting.

Step 2: Butchery

Making sure they’re ripe, cut up mangoes. Take care not to nick the seed pod. If you’re not good with knives and have abundant kitchen drawers, try an OXO Mango Splitter which gets rave reviews from white people everywhere.

You'll never see a Thai person cutting up a mango this way – but a Good Grips mango splitter makes the exercise a lot more child-friendly.

Step 3: Eat your mangoes

Need a few ideas? Mango with sticky rice (khao niew mamuang) is a food we’d place higher than bacon on the ‘Tastes Like Heaven’ list. If you get beyond Pad Thai on the menu, try a mango salad. Much like the very spicy papaya salad – it’s made with green, unripe mangoes and is extremely, amazingly delicious.

Mango sticky rice – get an amazing recipe for *black* mango sticky rice in David Thompson’s Thai Food cookbook

Step 4: Denude mango

Mango seed pods: top 'khaew sawei' and bottom 'nam doc mai' mangoes

Using a spoon or a knife, get as much of the mango flesh off the seed as possible. You might have to run it under water and scrub a bit. Dry off with a paper towel, and then leave it to completely dry for up to a day. We wrote on the pods to remember which variety was which. You’ll know when it’s dry because, suddenly, it will look furry – like in the photo above.

Step 5: Excavate mango seed

Use scissors or a knife to cut off a small corner of the mango seed pod, until you are able to pull the pod apart. Soon you’ll meet the round and rubbery mango seed.

Spoiler alert: A mango seed looks like a rubbery alien baby.

Step 6: Plant your mango

We planted our mango babies in a mixture of what’s available in Koh Samui’s plant nurseries – a coconut coir potting mix and worm compost. By all means, try in a compost-rich container mix – but this seemed to work. Do note that your mango needs good drainage. We planted it with a lot of worm castings to give it a good head-start in life.

Step 7: Grow babies, grow!

Sometimes science blows our minds. In a week's time, we had these to call our own. You can see that this guy, below, has two shoots – Southeast Asian mango varieties, unlike Indian varieties, are polyembryonic. Note that only the polyembryonic varieties will breed true – so if you’re determined to get fruit, be sure to pick this kind of mango.

One week later

While it took just a week for them to sprout in Samui’s hot and humid climate, elsewhere – colder countries – you might be waiting three weeks or more. By which point your kids may have given up or lost interest – no matter, let them be your mango babies. In 6 years – we might have fruit. And, in 15, the ever-so-gluttonous promise of “optimum yield”. Twenty-nine thousand one mangoes? Worth a try.

Growing mango 101

To the uninitiated, these mango facts might be surprising:

29,000: The highest recorded annual yield from one tree is 29,000 mangoes (cue extended !!!!!!!!!!!). Makes Koh Samui's coconut yield (70 coconuts per tree per year) seem rather paltry.

4-5 months: The time from mango flower to mango fruit

500+: There are 500+ mango  varieties – though it seems no one can really be bothered to count

100 feet: Some tree varieties will grow up to 100 feet tall (source).

Have a fruit fascination?

Mango details dealt with, you agree we need to grow our own? Get to know these weird and wonderful Thai fruits, as well as the many varieties of bananas in Thailand (some say 20 - some say 100). Enjoy!