Sunday, 29 September 2013


In India at least, mango (Mangifera indica L./Family Anacardiaceae) is the ‘queen’ of fruits. Most probably, it is so, worldwide! Let me inform you that most probably, except me, everyone perceives, thinks and calls the mango as ‘king’. It is up to you to decide whether mango is a king or queen of fruits. In the recent days of political correctness and gender neutrality, I have no definite answers for the above jigsaw puzzle. I know, it is like asking someone, ‘whether egg came first or the chicken? Let it be what it is, mango! ’Such problems are as gigantic as the Bermuda Triangle mystery—is not it? Or, maybe it is existential in nature, better to skip for the time being.

Mango originated from Southeast Asia. Historical data suggest that mango has been cultivated for the last six thousand years. India and China are the major producers of the fruit. With the advancement of innovative horticultural techniques, Mango is now cultivated in other parts of the world, as well, with varying degrees of success. Admittedly, India is a major producer and exporter of varieties of exotic and palatable mangoes; which have recurring demands in overseas markets.

Combined together, countries such as China, Thailand, Mexico, Pakistan, Philippines, Indonesia, Brazil, Nigeria, Myanmar and Egypt cultivate half of the total global output of mango; while India accounts for more than 50 percents or at an average of more than 22 million metric tonnes per year. Traditionally, farmers in Indian states, such as Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Odisha (Orissa), Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Haryana, Punjab, etc. are the major cultivation areas of mango. However, other states of India too, cultivate mango to varied extent. Local varieties of mango trees also grow wild in the forests of these states, adding diversity to the fruit. Some varieties are rare and exotic with unique tastes of their own, mainly available for consumption to the local population. Rapid shrinkage of the forest covers in India and over-exploitation of the fruits of the local species are reasons of much concern and even if some of the mangoes are commercially unviable at present; yet, to preserve the biodiversity, consorted efforts are required to protect the mango tree species heading for extinction.

The important overseas markets for mango are Malaysia, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, The Netherlands, Australia, United Kingdom, Germany, France, USA and the Gulf countries. Fresh seasonal mango varieties and canned derivatives are in great demand by the consumers in these countries, as well as in India itself. India has emerged as the top exporters of its mangoes to the Gulf countries. The government of India is putting much effort to expand its global market share for the much loved fruit. While, the processed mango products like mango chutney, pickles, jam, squash, pulp, juice, nectar and slices are much favoured by the consumers of United Kingdom, United States of America, Kuwait and Russia; India sends fresh mangoes to  Bangladesh, Bahrain, France, Kuwait, Malaysia, Nepal, Singapore and the United Kingdom, etc. In the international markets, Indian mango varieties; Alphonso, Dashehari, Kesar, Banganapalli, etc., sell well; because of their unique tastes, colour, texture and quality.

Aerated and deep soils rich in organic matter, with a pH range of 5.5 to 7.5 are ideal for mango cultivation. The soil should also be well drained, loamy and alluvial in nature and composition.

Mango trees thrive best in tropical and sub-tropical climates but their growth is retarded above 600 m. The tree loves plenty of unobstructed sunshine and suffers in frosty conditions, more particularly, the younger trees. The tree can tolerates heat very well but, low humidity and high winds can cause damage, in combination with high temperature. It also requires 75 to 375 cm distributed rainfall per annum along with dry spells in between. In some parts of India, the mango trees grow properly as it experiences almost six months of dry weather, ample sunshine, and six months of non-continuous wet period. Before flowering if the weather is dry, it leads to flower proliferation. During this time, if rains occur, the pollination process is hampered substantially. Overall, the distribution of rains is more important than the amount, for the mango trees to receive water for good growth and fruit yield. The trees cannot also tolerate the tropical cyclones and prolonged rainfall, more particularly during development stage of the fruits or when it is ripening.

Tastes warm sweet, sometimes pleasantly tart and the colour of the fruit is golden yellow. The pulp is almost fibreless.

The fibreless mango pulp is sweet creamy, aromatic and has a skin of dull green.

Bombay (Perhaps, we can rename it as Mumbai?)
If you want to taste a very sweet type of mango just go for it. It is easily recognizable by its yellow or brownish yellow outer layer and is almost fibreless.

Brahm Kai Meu
It is better to memorize the name of this mango for it is excellently sweet and crunchy as an apple. Just imagine for a second and activate your taste buds in anticipation; if you have not encountered this particular variety, as yet. The users of the mango will vouch for it. It is almost fibreless.

Should you desire of a mango tasting excellent sweet, tangy and highly aromatic; it is suggested to you to lay your hands on the Carrie. You will find it fibreless and of green to yellow colours.

Let me tell you, his mango wears the colours of golden yellow with a reddish blush, has fibreless pulp that tastes sweet plus aromatic. You will certainly enjoy it and will have the want to have more.

Fairly, it is a good mango. It is juicy that can be considered as excellent. It is yellow-green and fibreless also to be a darling of yours (of a different type and order), sort of. You can consider this mango as a child, who is ‘fair’ in dealings!

Being yellow to pink green in its avatar, the mango bears little bit of fibre but certainly sweet and delicious. Just sample it.

This one can be described as offering you a kind of luscious yet full sweetness as the feel, while eating. The fruits are green to yellow with red highlights in its hues. You get little fibre, as an incentive to get it. Remember, fibres are great for our health and bowl movement.

Ice Cream
If, Ice creams are not sweet than it is an injustice, so also, this mango. While, the actual Ice Creams come in a variety of colours, our Icecream mango has but only one colour—that of faint green. Unlike the icy and progressively melting Ice creams sold in the markets, nature has put some amount of fibre in it. For its fans, this is just a trivial philosophical issue and nothing else.

We can only call the sweet as sweet only, and nothing more or nothing less. So, let this mango’s taste remain sweet. The outer appearance of Irwin is orange to pink with extensive dark-red blush tints. That is Ok, definitely. Additionally, the colours of this mango can partially mesmerize you, apart from its superb sweetness. It is fibreless, just to mention.

Do you know a beautiful country called Indonesia? You know it! Well, then you can very well appreciate the Jakarta mango for its juicy and sweet pulp. Those who have eaten it describe it as a fibreless mango. Its colours are deep orange to red with numerous white dots, sprinkled in mysterious patterns.

I am not surprised that there is a mango also christened Julie. I have always found the Julies in my life to be particularly beautiful and lovely but, I do not know much about the (Ms.) Mithildas! Now, let us talk about this mango--Julie. The orange coloured Julie tastes juicy and sweet but is somehow fibrous. Tell me, don’t ‘they’ are like that? For that particular quality we cannot complain about Julie, our mango.

Keitt is a sweet and tangy darling. It is greenish with slight dark red blush on the skin. It has fibres, but minimal, in its mass. Certainly, that is fine.

This particular mango is fibreless, sweet, juicy and tender having a greenish skin with dark red blush and small yellow dots. So, one can enjoy its arty outer canvas and at the same time feel gung-ho in savouring.  

Remember, it takes its colour from the blood and as such, its skin is blood red. The sweet pulp is basically fibreless. It can emerge as a memorable treat for your palate. Just try it and tell me your opinion on Lancitilla—or even you may not tell me also.

Madame Francis
Yes, sure, we have a Madame called Francis among the mangoes. This Madame wears intricate colours to look prominent and beautiful. Her outer cover exhibits liberal shades of light-green, slightly yellowish or orange colours on it, making a perfect blend. Since the Madame is flavoured richly and has low fibre, she has a loyal fan base. You may join too.

In India, Mallika means a beloved. Such an entity ought to have the essential qualities like sweetness and ‘honey’ like qualities. Some of you may start a relationship with mango Mallika, once you yourself feel it is worth. Wait, you will recognize it instantly from the canary-yellow to Pink attire. The mango will simply melt in your mouth for it does not contain fibre.

Nam Doc Mai
If you are in search for mango Nam Doc Mai, look for the colour green-golden to bright yellow skin in a mango fruit. You will also have to find that it is tender and juicy, as well as fibreless, as a rule. It cannot be anything less than that.

Okrung is said to be a green-yellow mango and is soft, juicy, very sweet, & low in acidic property and it is fibreless. Simply, it means that the mango is enjoyable. You may interject here to ask me, ‘which mango is not enjoyable?’

In conspectus, I can describe the mango as a fibreless, small, sweet and yellow fruit in appearance and taste, bearing a nice country’s name.

Pim Seng Mun
Ah! This mango is refreshingly delicious with a flavour similar to a green apple. Is not it a big deal? And then, Pim Seng Mun is coloured as green to yellow. The mango is also fibreless. None can refuse a mango designed as a twin treats, that is, ‘an apple in a mango or a mango in an apple’.

Southern Blush
By the way, can you tell me when did you blush for the last time? This mango is a red-blush over its orange-yellow skin, I mean, all over it. It ought to be juicy in such a situation, and exactly, it is. If you eat it, it melts as it has no fibre to resist your teeth and desire.

Valencia Pride (but no prejudices)
The pink to red mango comes with some yellowish expressions, has no fibre in its pulp and tastes excellently sweet and tangy. Therefore, Valencia Pride is indeed, a ‘pride-possession’ for its owner. It can be ‘the neighbour’s envy and owner’s pride’.

I insist it is not the Jill of the famous duo ‘Jack & Jill’ but a humble mango with little fibre inside; still it is sweet, sporting a cover of yellow and red blush. In short, that says something about it, but not everything.

The Other Etcetera, Etcetera, Etcetera... 
I want to mention that there are hundreds of other types of mangoes found in farms and the wild. Some of these mangoes are commercially not exploited and some other types of mangoes are confined to their local environment and collected by the local population during the season for consumption and local trade. If you happen to travel through the interior villages of Odisha (India) during the mango season, you will certainly spot harvests and treat yourself to the rare and exotic verities of the countryside. One can hunt for such mangoes, by going to the periodic rural and tribal markets. They come very cheap and naturally ripen in most of the cases. This has an advantage over the mangoes sold in urban markets; since, you get the ‘perfect’ taste, largely free from harmful pesticides on it. These are also not artificially coloured with cancer (and what not diseases?) causing colouring pigments or ripened using artificial chemical agents, to to increase the shelf life of the fruits.’

The mango tree has an important part in/of the life of the people of Odisha. The followers of Hinduism consider the mango leaf as auspicious and sacred. At the time of any and usually all religious rituals (Ossa, Brata, Puja, Yagna, Homa, etc.), it is customary to decorate the places of entry to the events by hanging long garlands made out of green mango leaves. On some of the leaves, wet pastes of red vermilion and sandalwood are applied, to indicate the auspiciousness and sacredness of the occasion. It is also a declaration that one is welcomed to participate in the particular socio-religious event. Flowers are also included, while making the mango leaf garland. The sacred symbols of the Hindus—Oumm (Omm, Aum) and  prominent dots in traditional artistic patterns and other sacred geometric/mystical symbols are drawn using wet paste of vermilion, raw rice grains and sandalwood (Tilaka, Yantra and Mantra); which indicate the importance the mango leaves have, in the religious and social traditions, being followed over the generations, by the Hindus. In all auspicious occasions like homecoming, going out of the home for important work by the members of the family, etc., it is usual to place a metal vessel made out of copper, brass, Astadhatu (an alloy of eight recommended metals) or baked clay pot containing water inside and a coconut on its top (Kalasha), surrounded by mango leaves in a circle or in other configurations. Some raw rice grains are also placed on the top of the coconut that mounts the vessel. Sacred Hindu religious symbols are also drawn on the belly of the pot and on the coconut and mango leaves. As an example, a Hindu marriage ceremony, without the use of mango leaves is unthinkable, even in today’s time ‘like, follow, bookmark, share, copy, paste, password, download, upload, subscribe, chat, unlike, etc’.

So far as I am concerned, I like the Banganapalli mango. It is a superb fruit with lots of firm flesh but bereft of any fibres (though, my consulting doctor says that I require good amounts of dietary fibre intake to counter a minor health problem). This I do by eating oat meals, brown bread, etc., religiously to minimize the doctor’s fees and his scorns, upon my monthly visits to him). The taste of this mango is sweet but light, having a colour of light yellow and is of good size that feels comfortable in my palms. Its skin is thin and can be conveniently peeled off with the help of a kitchen knife. It is cheap and affordable for the poor and middle class of people like me and therefore, the variety is much in demand in the markets of India. One can slice it into pieces and extract the pulp with the teeth, but if the mango is not fully ripened then the thin fragile skin may break, with chunk of flesh on it. If you ask, I just dislike that kind of accidents while eating mango. It is better to eat it before it is too soft. It is not a type of mango which one can squeeze and suck the liquid juicy sauce through a small punctured hole at the upper top end of the fruit. Many local mangoes are eaten like that (by squeezing) as they have strong skins and small to medium in size. But this process might make your nose, cheek, neck, garment sticky and messy with the escaping drips of mango juice. You might also attract a drove of inquisitive and hungry flies, refusing to leave you in peace. At times, the nectar collecting honey bees might think you to be a person, who produces nectar.

Another mango, cherished by the Indians and lots of people in different countries is Alphonso. It is one of the costliest mangoes, for its extraordinary taste and therefore, is the darling of the of the fortunate ‘haves’ or the discerning/distinguished/elite consumers of fruits. Much of the harvest of the produce Alphonso, is exported to the Gulf countries and elsewhere for earning $$$ & £££ by my dear country. It is also rumoured that our successful politicians eat this mango regularly even by purchasing from the markets of the countries to which India exported the mango. It is known as importing one’s exported product for greater benefits.

I must admit, till now, I have not got a chance to savour it—but largely it does not matter since, some local (Desi) mangoes, available during the season in the market, can easily beat it to pulp! But that is a different matter altogether, as I consider each and every mango to be unique; for they are ‘made by nature’ (remember the ‘made in China’ things?) and cannot be compared. For my health and to enjoy my brisk evening stroll, I stop by the roadside fruit juice vendor occasionally and ask for a big glass of mango juice. It makes me full and relaxed; after a day of hectic work schedule. It too, erases the pains and trials & tribulations of writing blog posts, by burning the midnight candles. 

When the mango tree flowers, the passing breeze becomes impregnated with the aroma of the fresh flowers. The smell is so subtle and overwhelming that in such an environment one would feel like falling in love. Flowering of mango happens in spring time. During the time of pollination and fruit bearing, comes the festival of Holi known as the festival of colours. We also celebrate Dola Jatara (in the month of Phagun, as per the Hindu calendar) which relates to the worship of Lord Krishna and Radha, the Lord’s eternal love on earth and heaven. In such a time, the entire atmosphere becomes relaxed and agog with love, colours and conception (bearing) in an ethereal sense. The divine pair is carried on a decorated palanquin by the devout devotees through the main and not so main roads of the villages, towns, and cities; so that others can pay their obeisance to the deities. If you read Gita, the sacred book of the Hindus, you will understand the nature of creation, its purpose, your role and intricacies of life & living in clear terms as revealed to mankind by Lord Krishna. 

I often stand still under the mango trees to experience the flowing streams of soft fragrance of its blossom, as close as possible. It makes me tranquil and serene. In a spring like season, just after the harsh cold days and nights, I no more feel subdued but experience; gradually becoming free once again to explore life, love and living. After the mangoes start appearing, the children have a nice time plucking or collecting mangoes from all over the village and from the nearby forests. This being a leisurely and charitable time, they gather a lot of mangoes and earn new experiences to grow up, as a part of their rite d passage. In small close groups they eat the raw and sour mangoes with a pinch of salt salivating profusely while chuckling. They continue their mango gathering expeditions till the mango are ripe for harvest by the elders of the village. As a matter of safety the children or even the grownups are not encouraged to climb up the ‘fruit-full’ mango trees since its branches are brittle that can easily break. (By the way, for tree climbing exercises and adventure one can go for the tamarind tree or the coconut tree, etc.). Since as a grown up big fellow (it is my height), I myself cannot do the rounds, even though, I still feel like doing like these children do, during the mango season. From near and afar, at this time, we all love to hear the elusive cuckoo’s melodious songs.

I consider the grown up mango tree to be an ol’ man with a golden heart of a young lad. Its main trunk looks too much of an age. I always like the green leaves, a different shade of white flowers and the enchanting suspended in air bunch of fruits it bears. As a child I used my V shaped palm catapult (wooden) to practice my aiming skills by shooting the small stone projectiles at the mango of my choice. This instilled in me a lot of confidence and nourished my small ego to expand further.

On the main trunk of the mango trees, I often find plenty many small and neat cocoons of various types of winged creatures, like the wasp. They feel it safe to deposit their eggs inside their camouflaged and attached hatching pouches, perfectly blending those with the contour of the outer uneven dark scales of the mango tree. Generations of such creatures are born in the laps of the tree. Further, the red ants do regularly build their leaf-castles amid the thick and durable array of mango leaves. They know a marvellous technique to sew a bunch of mango leaves to make a beautiful tree house. They stay there, lay their eggs, deposit the foods collected collectively, hatch their offspring and defend fiercely by attacking the intruders. When I get some free time, I go near and watch the extra busy red ants going up and coming down in formations, in a most orderly manner, days after days, months after months and years after years. I believe its name is fire ant, but not fully sure. These ants are tender and beautiful to look at by people like me. But it has another side of its own. In many interior villages where the people live in pristine nature, these ants are a delicacy for them. Periodically, some villagers enter the community forests to look for the red ants. They collect the live ants and translucent eggs for consumption. The ants and eggs are either eaten live and directly by munching it in mouth or a liquid paste is made out of it by grinding. This sauce is eaten by the people who swear about its unique taste. Food scientists and trained dieticians say that the ants and their eggs contain lots of protein and is an alternative yet unconventional source of quality and nourishing food for the malnourished populace. Not only this, they recommend that many of the insects that we ignore are in fact edible and can solve our pressing problem of malnourishment and forced hunger. It is certainly true that a substantial chunk of people in the poorer regions of the world suffer from acute food shortage. But, I am happy with my vegetarian foods, yet I don’t dispute the above assertions of the wise intellectuals. However, personally, I do not want to recommend you to eat the ants and other edible insects who live amid us having a purpose of their own, as per the nature.

The extremely sour varieties of local mangoes are harvested when the fruits are still young and firm. Women of the house prepare mango chutney out of the pulp. They grind it a coarse paste by the traditional stone grinder (Sila-Silapua) by mixing green chilli, salt, coconut and other condiments. In mango surplus areas, the tender mangoes are sliced in half (the white mass found inside the kernel is taken out) and a coat of salt and turmeric paste is applied on it. These are then sundried. The long process of natural drying continues till the cut pieces turn dark-brownish in colour and the flesh becoming supple. This increases the sourness and zing of the dried mango along with the near edible outer hard shell of the kernel. Locally, it is called ‘Ambula’ and is an essential part of Odiya dishes (with sour taste) of different types. The salted and dried mango slices are stored in earthen pots (or other metal containers) for consumption round the year. Now a day, in the urban markets one can buy the ‘Ambula’ to prepare traditional dishes. Mostly, the women and particularly the pregnant wives find the ‘Ambula’ to be alluring. However, traditionally, it is believed that during early pregnancy, the expectant mothers should not eat any kind of sour food.  The very mention of ‘Ambula’ in a gathering invariably activates the taste buds and people have to cope with the sudden rush of saliva (ptyaline) inside their mouth, leading to comical situations and folklores which may travel far and wide.

As an item during lunch, dinner or supper; people squeeze the ‘Ambula’ in a small pot having water; then salt, green chilli, green coriander leaves, raw white or small reddish stem onion, charcoal baked brinjal (eggplant), lady’s finger and tomato; as well as dried dusty cubes of seasoned bamboo shoots, dry fresh water small fish, few cloves of garlic, etc. are added to make an extremely enchanting light liquid (commonly known as ‘Luna Pani’ that simply translates as salt-water). It is slurped by hand while eating cooked rice and other curries, with the help of the charcoal baked brinjal, by holding its firm top end. This is an ‘ordinary’ or ‘common’ item but extraordinary in unforgettable taste for the people of Odisha. It goes very very well, if taken with cooked rice added with cold water or fermented for an overnight. This particular water soaked cooked rice is another delicacy in itself, commonly known as ‘Pakhala’. During summer, ‘Pakhala’ and ‘Luna Pani’ make a great meal that instantly cools down hunger and heat and induces a sound sleep.

Mango in Odisha, is not something that can be called an item of luxury, particularly in the countryside, as yet. The local mango trees and its fruits are part of the families and the larger community (of food & socio-religious significance). With the onslaught of national marketing forces (international, too), the mangoes of the people are gradually becoming dearer and dearer. Due to rapid decimation of the forests for timber, I believe, the local species are to be saved and promoted. If such trees are no more, than this is a loss for humanity and local culture. Many tribals (I have no idea, why the dictionary of my computer does not understand the meaning of ‘tribal’) and other poor people go to the forest to collect the wild mangoes for a means of living during the season; to part supplement their small family budget & subsistence. Without any land of their own for cultivation, these people are dependent on the minor forest produces which they collect through arduous teak in the thick and rocky forests (forests are beautiful from afar or if you are a diehard romantic who can appreciate it from within for its bounties). Though, they do hard work in collecting various minor forest produces (agricultural products), including mangoes, the price that they get from the middlemen is so low that it leads to food shortage in their families. I am talking about the landless and poor tribal and non-tribal people who live in the interior and inaccessible areas of the Western Odisha, and not all of villagers and forests dwellers.

Finally, I want to say something that is ‘personal’ and is a complaint, sort of. A mango tree that we had planted years ago in our small garden space has so far produced only a dozens of mangoes per annum, while the other trees in the locality give hundreds of mangoes. Though, I mentioned this issue as a complaint, yet I do not mind for not having the fruits of labour. I know mango trees are moody from time to time. That is Ok, well and good form. In fact, some trees do not materialize much fruits, while trees produce mangoes in droves. In general, I have noticed that the entire mango trees of a large area generate miserly amounts of fruits, every second year after giving lots and lots of mangoes, in the previous year. It has something to do with nature (and not the nutrition) and the embedded genetic codes of the mango trees; like any other living beings, including the humans.

Still, I like our family mango tree. It is beautiful and majestic.