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'Godfather of tropical fruit', Northern Territory mango grower named among top 30 producers by Good Food magazine

ABC Rural 

By Peta Doherty

Posted about 6 hours ago

MAP: Darwin 0800

00:00 AUDIO: Chris Nathanael discusses his new title: 'the top end's godfather of tropical fruit' (ABC Rural)

A Northern Territory horticulturist has been named one of Australia's top 30 producers by Good Food magazine.

Chris Nathanael has been growing and developing new tropical produce at his orchard and nursery, Tropiculture Australia, in the Darwin rural area for more than 50 years.

He said receiving the title was an unexpected honour.

"It was about 25 years ago at a mango growers' meeting and we were told that only something like 15 per cent of Australians had ever eaten a mango and no-one knew what to do about it. I was so depressed."

~ Mango farmer Chris Nathanael

"I was quite intrigued that we should get such an award but it was really great receiving it,"
Mr Nathanael said.

The magazine called him "the Top End's godfather of tropical fruit" in reference to the work he has done developing and improving fruits for the tropics.

His eight-hectare orchard holds more than 200 fruit varieties, including 30 different mangoes species.

Mr Nathanael said he had received numerous calls for gardening advice since acquiring the title — and copped a ribbing from friends.

"One of my friends wanted to know if I wanted him to 'bring the mattresses here'," 
he said.

The Italian folklore term 'go to the mattresses' is code for 'prepare for battle' and was made famous by the Godfather movies.

"Another wanted to know whether I wanted to buy a concrete factory and another spoke with a gravelled voice," 
the veteran horticulturist said.

'Are these paw paws?'
asked early customers

Mr Nathanael has introduced thousands of Australians to tropical fruit.

He began sending Territory mangoes interstate in gift boxes more than 20 years ago to educate consumers after despairing that so few knew about the now-popular tropical treat.

"It was about 25 years ago at a mango growers' meeting and we were told that only something like 15 per cent of Australians had ever eaten a mango and no one knew what to do about it,"
he said.

"I was so depressed. I came back and thought 'what about a gift pack'."

PHOTO: When Mr Nathaneal first began sending mango gift packs, people did not know what they were getting (file photo).(Ben Collins: ABC Local)

Since then he has been sending an assortment of mango varieties to homes around the country.

At first recipients did not know what they were receiving.

"When we first started sending them 20-odd years ago, we kept getting phone calls saying, 'hey are these paw paws' or 'how do you eat these'" Mr Nathaneal recalled.

That led the business to develop literature on what mangoes were and how to eat them.

Even today Mr Nathanael, who can identify a mango variety by the smell of the tree's leaves, is introducing Australians to less common mango varieties such as the lemon mango, the Irwin, the Tommy Atkins and the Van Dyke.

Innovation born from trial and error

But growing mangoes is only a fraction of the work that goes on at the orchard.

Mr Nathanael and his small team have developed and improved many fruits that are now being grown commercially in Australia and overseas.

His fruits include a Longan, a relative of the lychee, which is being grown in Tahiti and a fig, which can tolerate damp tropical climates, is being grown in the Northern Territory and Malaysia.

The carbon fertiliser he created from fish and chips oil is now sold around the country.

In the pipeline are a new variety of custard apple, an orange that colours up in tropical conditions and three new types of avocados.

"We can grow avocados up here at a time when avocados in the local supermarket skyrocket to about $5 each," Mr Nathaneal said.

He credits his innovations to the challenges he has encountered as a pioneer in a small field.

"With citrus, we could pick up the phone and speak to quite a number of experts but there's not many tropical fruit experts," he said.

"We've been virtually on our own, it's been trial and error."

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Come this summer pamper your loved ones abroad with a box of delicious mangoes through DHL’s Express Easy Mango service, a unique one-stop-shop and hassle-free service for gifting mangoes all across the world.

This unique service by DHL Express, the world’s leading express company, allows customers to send mangoes from India across the world to the following countries Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Hong Kong, Italy, Luxemburg, Maldives, Netherlands, Norway, Oman, Qatar Singapore, Switzerland and Sweden.

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