Mango : The King of Fruits

Hiuen Tsang, after being in India is going back. Time AD 627-643, on the fabled Silk Route. Apart from his knowledge of Buddhism, his rucksack contains an extraordinary fruit called Mango.

The name in hindi AAM is derived from Sanskrit word AMRA which seems to be the loan from Dravidian and is related to Tamil words for Mango like “mamaram”. Portuguese were responsible for transferring the name to the West. It is growing in India since 4000 years at least.

Moguls were great connoisseurs of the fruit. Akbar got 100000 mango trees in Lakhi Bagh near Darbhanga Bihar. Others who relished the fruit were Shahjahan and Noor Jehan, Aurangzeb, Sher Shah Suri. Raghunath Peshwa got large numbers all over Maharashtra.

Main Constituents:

Citric acid and related compounds are responsible for sour taste. Several terpenes have been found in unripe fruit..

Ripe mango contains volatile compounds like alpha terpineol, ocimene, limonene, 3-carene etc. Yellow colour is due to beta Carotene.

Nutrients

Mangoes are rich in potassium, about 8% carbohydrate with 1.6 % dietary fibre. Very rich in vitamin A , C, B-6, calcium, iron, and magnesium.

Some famous Indian Varieties:

1: Alphonso or Hapoos
King among the mangoes. Named after Portugal admiral D Afonso de Albuquerque. Deogad in Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra has got the GI tag of genuineness.

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2: Dasehri
It is birth place is Malihabad in Lucknow. Soft, succulent and mild.

3: Banarasi Langda
It was born in an orchard belonging to a Langda (lame) fellow and thus got this name.

4: Himsagar
Fibre less, creamy and full of pulp. Pride of Murshidabad in West Bengal.

5: Fazli
Quite big in size, famous in Malda of West Bengal. Late maturing.

6: Chaunsa:
From Bihar. Full of Flavour. It is pressed into mouth and juice is sucked.

7: Gulab Khaas
Native of Jharkhand. It is graceful mango

8: Kesar

Aromatic fruit of Junagadh Gujarat. Giving a tough fight to Hapoos. Plantations are on foothills of mount Girnar.

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9: Bedmi: Taste depends upon the plucking time.

10. Totapuri: it is abundant in southern states of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka.

11: Sindoori: it gets its name from the vermillion colour of the skin.

12: Banganapalli/ Bagan Phali/ Safeda
From Andhra’s small town Banganapalli. Sweet, yellow and fibre less.

13: Himam Pasand/ Humayun Pasand
A cross made from Banganapalli and Malgoa. It is very popular in Deccan.

14: Chandrakaran: it is delicacy from Kerala. Sweet and sour. Quite costly.

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Craze for Alphonso

India is home to a number of mango varieties. Come summers and markets are flooded with the fruit. It is consumed in many forms. The raw fruit is used to make pickles and chutneys. It is also used to make a refreshing drink to ward off the effects of summer heats. The drink is called Aam Panah. When it ripens, it is used for eating in desserts, it’s pulp is crushed to make mango concentrates, it thick juice called Aam Ras is eaten with indian food. Even its stones are dried and inside material is used in many medicines. The mango tree is considered so auspicious that it’s leaves are used in holy ceremonies by Hindus.

The fruit comes in many varieties in size and shape and skin color. I remember in my days of childhood, we had two mango trees in our land. Both were so diverse with one being a giant spread in large area but it’s fruits were very small. When the ripening season began, the fruits will begin to fall to the ground and soon the whole ground beneath shall be littered with fruits. The collected fruits were washed and put into cool water for quenching their latent heat and then sucked as such. Many birds like crows and parrots gorged on the fruit in the boughs. The other tree was small in size but fruits were bigger.

The weakness for the fruit is universal. It is very rich in minerals, sugars and vitamins. It is loved by people world over. History tells how the arrangements were made to send the fruit from India to England for the royalty.

Out of so many varieties available in India, Alphonso which is grown in Ratnagiri district of Maharastra, parts of Gujarat and Karnataka is considered to be the king. It is called Hapus in Maharastra. Most of it is exported. Rich people in Mumbai make the bookings to get the fruit in priority. There has been a craze among the people for the fruit.
Times of India article writes , “Mangoes feature in perhaps the earliest printed reference to the name of the islands on which the city was built. This was in the Portuguese naturalist Garcia de Orta’s Colloquies on the Simples and Drugs of India, a fascinating book written in the form of dialogues between Orta and a friend (and one of the first printed in India, in Goa in 1563). At one point the conversation is interrupted by a servant boy who tells Orta his tenant in Bombaim, the island whose lease Orta was given as a sinecure, has just sailed in with a basket of mangoes to give the governor of Goa. Orta happily uses this as a chance to expound on the wonders of mangoes and when his servant says he will send them to the governor, he hastily interjects: “Give them here. They ought to be cut with a sharp knife that the slice may not be injured and I want to taste them first…” Mumbaikars would sympathise. There is no better gift than mangoes in season, yet it is just natural for givers to feel a pang at the pleasures given up. The variety Orta received from Bombay is not known and perhaps it is unlikely they were Alphonsos, the only kind many Mumbaikars bother with today. These were probably developed in Goa, where the Portuguese had introduced the grafting techniques needed for good mangoes, but it is unknown if this had happened in Garcia de Orta’s time.

They were well known by the time of the Rising of 1857. The Times of India, looking back at it 17 years later, in a long piece printed on November 13, 1874, wondered how Nana Saheb, the Peshwa prince, had became one of the leaders: “Up to 1857 there was no Prince better known in these parts… he used to be the boon companion of British officers, to who he gave the finest cherry brandy, and Alphonso mangoes brought up by special dak from Bombay.

A more nuanced view of that statement from 1937 would confirm they are the best for export since they have thick skin and withstand transportation better than fabled local varieties such as Tamil Nadu’s Imam Pasands or Goa’s Mankhurados, both wonderful, but poor travellers. The well-established systems for growing, trading and transporting them from the Konkan have also helped make Alphonsos the best mangoes that are relatively easy to get across India and abroad.

Such subtleties though are lost in Mumbai. For many consumers here, Alphonsos are all that matter, with other locally available varieties such as Pairis and Badamis being dismissed as good for juice only. Due to this reason, many producers use chemicals especially calcium carbide to artificially ripen the fruit early and get very high returns. The chemical is known to be carcinogenic.
Thus, people are buying fruits which are potentially dangerous and paying higher price also. The naturally ripened fruit has aroma and taste which is lost in the artificial ripening process. The taste becomes bland.
In our childhood days there were no artificial methods available for ripening the fruit and also no faster transportation means for getting the fruits from far distances. So whatever was available was in the natural form.

Some more memories of Ratnagiri

Although now I have gone far away from Panvel from where Ratnagiri was not far, the memories never die. Many times I have been to Goa where my son was studying, Ratnagiri was on the way and train halted there for sufficient time. I read about the city and particularly about the King of Burma Thibaw Minh who was confined to this place by the British after he lost the to battle to them and Burma was annexed to British empire. I don’t know how they thought to bring him and his family at such a distance away from his home. He was not old and his whole life was spent in Ratnagiri in a palace called Thibaw Palace. He was very much respected by the local people. Since his palace is located at a lofty place, he would sit with his binoculars and watch the Arabian sea and boats coming and going to the various landings. Area being the coastal, the main occupation of people was and is fishing. They waited for the fishing boats coming home. The king would announce the arrival of the boats as he was able to spot them through his binocular and people would then make for the landings.

English: Thibaw Palace, Residence of Burmese K...
English: Thibaw Palace, Residence of Burmese King exiled in Ratnagiri (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Also it was the habit of the King to visit the Bhagwati temple which was located on another hill. Only for this activity he went out. All this information excited me to visit the place and see for myself. So once we decided to visit the place while returning from Goa. This has been described in another entry. From here we went to see the Ganapati Pule which is religious place as well as a beautiful beach. In fact whole area possesses breathtaking beauty. There is blue Arabian sea and coconut groves. There are cashew trees growing in the wild and the world famous Alphonso mango tree orchards. Here are some beautiful pictures.

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English: Alphonso mango tree in a dense cultiv...
English: Alphonso mango tree in a dense cultivation orchard at Kotawade, Ratnagiri distirict, Maharashtra state, India. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)