Julie mango tree which refuses to be
'As you sow, so shall you reap' is an adage that has always resonated with Elsworth Johnson, with the understanding that everything that happens to one in life is a result of earlier actions - whether good or bad. But in recent times, the retiree has had good reasons to question the literal aspect of this age-old saying, as a result of the fruits of his labour at his Havendale residence in St Andrew.
It all started eight years ago when the lifelong farmer planted the seed of a Julie (St Julian) mango from which he had cut the flesh and left it to dry, recalling that "it never tasted so good".
Now he's delighted that the tree, which has come into full bearing, is yielding some very big and tasty mangoes, but puzzled as to why they are not the Julie variety.
"It is very nice, tastes like an East Indian and has hairs like East Indian, but is not East Indian and is not Julie. St Julian is the original and this is a by-product or different species, it is a tougher mango and lasts longer on the shelf," he shared with The Gleaner during a visit on Friday. And the response of others who know the story?
marvel at hybrid
"They marvel, even me marvelling still," Johnson admitted. "I ate the Julie, planted the seed, but this is St Julius because the right name is St Julian and this is a part of Julian, so I call it St Julius," Johnson said in explaining his naming of the hybrid variety. He is yet to get a proper explanation for what might have caused this positive mutation, given that the fruits are much bigger than the mother fruit and while sweet and juicy, the flesh is very fibrous, unlike that of Julie mangoes.
And then there is speculation that Johnson could have had a much bigger story to tell but for the dramatic decline in rainfall in the Havendale area.
"Normally, we have good rainfall. I came here on the 18th of January 1959 and the rainfall was good up to four years ago. Rain used to fall nearly every day or every other, in the evening, but all that changed some four years ago. Now rain is a scarce commodity. All of a sudden, no rain for all three months," he disclosed.
Despite this setback, the Havendale resident remains committed to planting a wide range of crops within the confines of his yard, with potted cacti among his horticultural pursuits. Then there is callaloo, scallion, Scotch bonnet pepper and okras from the vegetable garden, with mango, guava, naseberry and pomegranate among the tree crops and, of course, bananas.
For this reason, whenever it rains, Johnson harvests the precious commodity, storing it in four 45-gallon containers where it is guarded zealously and used judiciously.
"Keep planting or start planting" is his advice to all Jamaicans, irrespective of where they live or the size of their holdings.