Last time we were in Ohio, I was surprised to find so many different fruits and vegetables in the local Kroger store with stickers that said they had come all the way from Peru!
Asparagus, mangos, avocados, blueberries… I actually struck up a long (one-sided) conversation with a slightly confused store clerk about the blueberries, because the sticker on the package was from a fruit farm right here in the Huaylas Valley!
But this post is not about the blueberries or the confused clerk, or that fact that I was spilling out all of my allotted words for the day in a grocery store because it was the middle of winter and I had forgotten that everyone stays inside in the winter and it can get really lonely unless you have somewhere to go.
This post is supposed to be about mangos…
And not just any old mango, but the really sweet, juicy, delectable Peruvian mangos.
And before we go any farther, let’s just make sure that we’re all pronouncing that word correctly in our heads as we read along…
I know that most gringos are saying “mang – (rhymes with hang) -goes.” But you’re supposed to say “MAHN – (rhymes with on) – goes.”
OK, now that we’ve got that cleared up, back to my post.
If you buy mangos in your grocery store, it’s highly likely that you have eaten a Peruvian mango, probably without even realizing it. So I thought you might like to take a trip with us to a mango chacra (farm) just a few hours from where we live to see where your imported fruit comes from.
This is Ade’s uncle, Julio Solis. He owns a mango orchard on the outskirts of a tiny town called Cachipampa, which means “salt flats” in Quechua.
His orchard doesn’t look like a salt flat here, but if you notice the rocky top of the hill, you’ll get a better idea of what this area is actually like.
It never rains on the coast of Peru, so irrigation is a must, and crops only grow in the valleys where rivers flow down from the mountains above. Without these rivers, the land is absolutely bone dry.
Surprisingly, however, people have made their homes in this desert for several millennia, as evidenced by the the archaeological complex of Sechin, which dates back to 1600 BC.
From ancient times, ingenious Peruvians have known how to utilize the Andean rivers in order to make the deserts bloom and produce food for their people.
In Tio Julio’s orchard, you can see the irrigation channels in between the trees.
We visited his chacra on a blazing hot day in February… the kind of day when you find yourself dripping with sweat after a short, 5 minute walk to reach the orchard. But the relative coolness in the orchard and the drippy sweetness of tree-ripened fruit quickly made us forget about our sweaty discomfort.
Here are a few pictures showing how the mangos grow on the trees.
Tio Julio showed the boys how to harvest the mangos with a long stick, making sure that someone was ready down below to catch the fruit when it dropped.
Before leaving Tio Julio’s orchard on that stifling February day, we gathered around and prayed for the mango harvest. And from what I’ve heard, the harvest is going well, but because of the current COVID-19 quarantine, the orchard owners have no way to sell their fruit. This might mean that you won’t be seeing Peruvian mangos in your local Kroger anytime soon. But here in Peru, it most certainly means a very difficult, if not devastating situation for the local growers.
As I look at this picture and remember our prayer, I’ll admit that I wonder what God was thinking as He listened to our words. But I trust the He can take our prayer for an excellent mango harvest and turn it into a prayer for His provision for these farmers and many others who are suffering during this time.
And when Peruvian mangos finally do make their way onto the shelves of your local Kroger, take a big bite, let the juice drip down your chin, and smile, knowing that you have met a mango farmer and have taken a second-hand tour of his orchard in Cachipapampa, Peru.