India’s summer dovetails into the season for mangoes, that heavenly fruit also known as the ‘king of fruits.’ Our country is home to a whole plethora of mango varieties, each hailed as a delicacy. Eaten ripe or consumed while green and raw, the mango is universally liked and in high demand in Indian markets. India is also a prominent exporter of fresh mangoes to the world. Last year, we exported 40 plus metric tonnes of fresh mangoes, worth upwards of INR 285 Crores, to markets like the UAE, UK, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, and the United States. And today, while we are right in the midst of the mango season, the fruit has been in the news, for both negative and positive reasons like two sides of a coin. With the Eurpoean Commission blocking Indian mangoes from ECC markets due to some fruit fl y infestation is aff ecting exports, the move has fl ooded local markets with premium varieties of mangoes, delighting the Indian consumer no end. Good enough reason for writing about the goodness of mangoes as a health food.
Mango is the national fruit of India and the Philippines. It is also the national tree of Bangladesh. Mughal emperor Akbar (1556-1605 AD), who was so taken in by the fruit, is said to have planted a 100,000 tree mango orchard in Darbhanga, eastern India. Th e Jain goddess Ambika is traditionally represented as sitting under a mango tree. In Hinduism, the perfectly ripe mango is held by Lord Ganesha as a symbol of attainment, and mango blossoms are also used in the worship of the goddess Saraswati. Dried mango skin and its seeds are widely used in Ayurvedic medicines. Mango leaves are used to decorate archways and doors in Indian houses during weddings and religious festivals. Mango motifs and paisleys are also widely used in diff erent Indian embroidery styles, and are found in Kashmiri shawls, Kanchipuram silk sarees, etc., to mention a few. In Tamil Nadu, the mango is referred to as one of the three royal fruits (mukkani) along with banana and jackfruit, for their sweetness and fl avor. Th is triad of fruits is also referred to as má-palá-vázhai. Famous Urdu poet Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib was very fond of mangoes, and there exist many anecdotes concerning his love for mangoes. Rabindranath Tagore was very fond of mangoes and has written poems about its fl owers – aamer monjori. In the West Indies, the expression “to go mango walk” means to steal another person’s mangoes, celebrated in the famous song, The Mango Walk. In Australia, the fi rst tray of mangoes of the season is traditionally sold at an auction for charity.
India is the world’s largest producer of mangoes producing around 15 million tonnes a year, and is home to a 1,000 plus varieties of this tropical fruit, though only a handful of these are commercially grown. Despite being the largest producer of the fruit, India accounts for but a fraction of one percent of the international mango trade, as we tend to consume most of our own production. Mangoes are also grown in China, which occupies second place aft er India at around 4.35 million tonnes a year; Andalusia in Spain, mainly in the Málaga province, as its coastal subtropical climate is one of the few places in mainland Europe that allows the growth of tropical plants and fruit trees. The Canary Islands are another notable Spanish producer of the fruit. Other cultivators include North America (in South Florida and California’s Coachella Valley), South and Central America, the Caribbean, Hawai’i, South, West and Central Africa, Australia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Southeast Asia.
Mangoes come in various shapes, sizes and colours, with a wide range of fl avours, aroma and taste. Th e mango is also a health-food par excellence with lots of nutrients packed into it. So much so that just a single mango can provide upto 40 percent of our daily dietary fi bre needs – and be a potent protector against heart disease, cancer and cholesterol build-up to boot. Added to this, the luscious fruit is a bountiful warehouse of potassium, beta-carotene and antioxidants as well. From mangoes that are as small as ping pong balls to large ones that weight as much as two to three kilogrames each, each one is a gourmet’s delight. And with these diff erent mangoes come some exotic dishes, each a fl avoursome treat as well. So, without much ado, let us get on to the recipes !