I love subtropical fruits – mangoes, paw paws and so on. When backpacking in Malaysia and Indonesia, I even managed to overcome the vomitous smell of durian to taste it – yummy!
When we first moved here, I discovered we have two lovely mango trees. That first year we had a bumper crop, and I decided to make lots of mango chutney as well as eating the raw fruit.
I picked lots, and every time the white latex squirted out from the join of the stalk of the fruit with the tree. I got it on my bare forearms, but didn’t think anything of it.
A couple of days later, I developed what looked like chemical burns on my arms. I thought it was some weird subtropical insect lodged in my skin, so ignored it in the hope of it going away. But I started to swell, my eyes glued shut and I developed bruising on my skin. My whole skin felt like it was crawling and the only way I could get temporary relief was with REALLY HOT showers.
A visit to a GP identified the problem. He took one look at my arms and asked, ‘Have you been picking mangoes lately?’ His wife had the same problem, so he was able to identify it straight away. Phew! The mango is in the same plant family as poison ivy (and cashews).
He gave me some cortisone cream, but that didn’t help at all. I finally went to a pharmacist who gave me something I could take internally. Over a week or so the itching, swelling and brusing went away.
At the time the GP said I should be careful about grevilleas, too. I didn’t think anything of it because – who eats grevilleas, right?
Anyway, recently on a Friday we went to the graduating art exhibition of a friend of ours at the local uni. The whole uni grounds are planted with lovely Australian natives. I saw a pretty flower with drops of nectar and decided to have a sip. Have you sipped the nectar of any native flowers? Very sweet and delicious – no wonder birds like them.
Anyway, by Monday I’m getting puffy and when I wake up my eyes are practically swollen shut. And itchy all over with a few surface blotches. Then I realise – it was a grevillea! D’oh!
It’s amazing how irritated one can feel mentally when one’s skin is crawling and one looks like a victim of domestic violence. I refused to go out of the house as my eyes were swollen practically shut. It was not as bad as the mango episode, though, when I was getting whole body swelling and bruising and my throat was swelling up as well.
A few days on steroids – immune suppressants – did the job this time.
We’re having a bumper crop of mangos this year, so I’ll be getting the biohazard suit out to make mango chutney (I can eat that, just not raw mangoes). Or maybe I’ll just give them all away. The GP wants me to get the trees chopped down, but I refuse to go that far.
Maybe our brush turkeys (Alectura lathami) will enjoy the fruit. I love raw mangoes, but, alas, they do not love me.