This delicious summer fruit has more to it than mere something good to eat. The tall trees mean a lot; its twigs are considered auspicious for pooja (hawan), leaves for pooja room décor, raw mangoes are used to make tongue-tickling chutneys and pickles. During summer vacations, kids spend all day knocking down its fruits, swings are tied from one of its branches. Last but not least the tree shades comfort the travelers or the passersby. Maharashtra, famous for Alphonsos, amba in Marathi means mango. It also has villages named after aam: Ambevalli, Ambevadi and Ambenalli.

HEALTHFUL – Ripe mangoes are a good source of potassium and Vitamin A (good for eyes). Vitamins B1, B2, and C are in abundance, in unripe mangoes. Raw ones have great amount of protein & iron. Mangoes have no fat and are low in carbohydrates. But overindulgence can cause colic and dysentery.

Magnifera indica about 4000 year old fruit is believed to have originated in the Himalayan foothills of eastern India. It went to eastern Asia in ancient times, Portuguese colonizers took it to Africa & Brazil in the 16th century & since then it’s been cultivated in nearly every tropical and sub –tropical region. Popular varieties grown overseas include Australia’s bright orange yellow Kensington, Thailand’s dark green Tongdum (“Black Gold”), the oval, slightly beaked sensation seen in Florida, USA, the rosy Rommy Atkins of South Africa & Mexico. India tops in annual production with 52% of the world’s mangoes, followed by Mexico & Pakistan.
In the country’s biggest mango malls, Alphonsos might be sold for Rs600 a dozen, while unassuming Badami (larger, fleshier lemon-yellow mango with its distinctive relish) can be had for a tenth of the price.
Many northerners prefer the green – skinned Langra or golden Dusheri. In western region, of course the Alphonso, but Goans prefer Mankurad. According to horticulture scientist from Ratnagiri, Alphonsos may be popular, but the fruit often have inedible spongy tissue and some host insect pests. As Neelam mangoes, a southern variety, don’t have these problems, the scientist painstakingly transferred its pollen grains on to Alphonso flowers using a thin brush. The resulting hybrid was large like the Neelam and blushed like the Alphonsos when ripe, with no pests and hardly any spongy tissue. It was named Ratna, after Ratnagiri (name of that place). But Ratna mangoes were too sweet but deprived of the Alphonso’s uniquely piquant tang. Like an artist mixing colours the horticulturist now had to achieve the right blend of genes to reduce the sugars and restore the tang. Only after he incestuously “back crossed “ flowers from the parent alphonso tree with Ratna pollen grains did he get mangoes with no problems that looked and tasted like the best Alphonsos. But the new mango was almost all flesh with just a wafer-thin stone inside. A seedless Alphonso! It was the kind of serendipity horticulturists only dream about. It was named Sindhu, after neighbouring Sindhudurg district (its research station). It took nearly 13 years of trial and error and of waiting for mango saplings to grow up, bloom and bear fruit. But it’s paying off. Sindhu saplings have already been sold tens of thousands. So it may upstage Alphonso some day!! Until then the old, seeded Alphonso will lead the list of the finest mangoes. It owes its Latin name probably to a colonial Portuguese official who was passionate about it. Indeed, the portuguese were the first t try vegetative propagation or grafting of the fruit. The English word mango itself derives from manga, borrowed by the Portuguese from the Tamil mankai.
A mango recipe:

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