The march of the Indian mango (2)

“When you get your first Indian mango, perhaps an Alphonso, just hold it in your hand and admire its blushes of reds, yellows and greens. Breathe in its aroma, which will reach out to you through its skin. If it is hard, wrap it in newspaper and set it aside, unrefrigerated, until it yields very slightly to the touch. Mangoes are never “tree-ripened.” The hand of man is needed to coax them to their peak.” [Madhur Jaffrey/NYT]

Madhur Jaffrey calls them the ‘fruits of diplomacy’

She’s preparing Americans for the event. And how.

Whatever anyone else might say, America’s new nuclear and trade pact with India is a win-win deal. India gets nuclear fuel for its energy needs and America, doing far better in what might be called a stealth victory, finally gets mangoes…

These mangoes will be seasonal. Americans will learn to wait for them, just as Indians do. They cannot be pushed to grow in hothouses. Indian mango trees, many of them hundreds of years old (and some reputed to be thousands of years old) need to breathe the same free, fresh air Indians breathe and live through India’s three main seasons: summer, the monsoons and winter. Only then will they deign to bear fruit…

Under this new arrangement, reasonably honest Indian-Americans will no longer have to turn into furtive smugglers to bring mangoes into the country. The one attempt I made was quite unsuccessful. A customs inspector, possibly noting my shifty eyes, asked me quite directly, “Are you carrying any mangoes?” Unable to lie, I had to reply in the affirmative. The mangoes were confiscated.

This would have been bearable had I not been able to peep through a slight crack in the customs office door, a few moments later. The officers were cutting up the mangoes and eating them. That hurt. [NYT]

This post should more than make up for the absence of the usual Sunday Levity post yesterday

24 thoughts on “The march of the Indian mango (2)”

  1. Oh please. Madhur Jaffrey gimme a break.

    The best mangoes are in Jaffna (not of secular-right but the real place that is not an extension of India! The Yanks better try that to know the ultimate in the mango experience.

  2. Dharman,

    Years ago I used to believe that it is a quintessentially Indian phenomenon. Now I’ve realised that it is a subcontinental one. For nearly every state (and within it, every district) claims that its mango is the best.

    Pakistani mangoes, which by all accounts and all measures are far superior to any varieties that India can produce, will remain denied to American connoisseurs of the fruit, since Pakistan has made no discernable attempt to export to the US its mangoes and even its juicy and luscious kinoos (oranges), which India does not have. [DT]

    That was the Daily Times’ US correspondent reporting on Madhur Jaffrey’s article. You have held up Jaffna’s end.

  3. Gaurav,

    I have no clue what a “kinoo” is (though the sound is full of interesting possibilities), unless it has an English name that is more familiar (tangerine/kumquat/mandarin/??). It is DT that describes them as oranges.

  4. Nitin: More than the NY Times piece I found Khalid Hassan’s whining very funny. Whatever happenened to stop being Indo-centric!


  5. Cynical Nerd,

    For a supposedly respected senior journalist, Khalid Hassan has been doing this ‘sour grapes’ routine one too many times. Last year he made a big deal out of not being invited to an Pakistani Embassy function, then recently showed that he was piqued at not being granted the Bush interview.

  6. Dharman refers to Jaffna as “not of secular-right but the real place that is not the extension of India”. This compels me to reiterate my Jaffna identity and rise to the defence of the mango.

    Jaffna is located in the northern tip of Sri Lanka. The peninsula is only 270 square miles in area. It is unique, arid and located on a limestone bedrock unlike the Sri Lankan mainland that rests on granite gneiss. This said, the peninsula is extremely fertile. The dry weather ensures that the mango – unlike in southern Sri Lanka – is more sweet since the fructose is not diluted. There is a concentrated flavor without excess liquid.

    There are 40 different types of mango varieties in Jaffna alone – the “chembaataan”, the “ambalavi”, the “karutta kozhumban”, the “vellai kozhumban” and the “villard” stand out. I think that they are all superb – each has a unique flavor. The Sinhalese got the bright idea and planted the Jaffna mango in their parts of the country. But the flavor was not the same given the much higher rainfall there.

    I presume the best mangoes all hail from the drier parts of the Indian subcontinent – i.e. Telangana, Sindh and Jaffna. So each can claim that its mangoes are the best – and why not?

    So before Gaurav makes the claim for Mahilabad, let’s have a Mango contest with neutral international panelists to adjudicate.

  7. Jaffna,

    Excellent suggestions. But I hope by ‘international panel’ you don’t mean one constituted under the auspices of SAARC or the UN ๐Ÿ˜‰

  8. Jaffna,

    Excellent suggestion.

    Since Nitin has discounted UN and SAARC, may I suggest IAEA. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    By the way Malihabad is near Lucknow and famous (atleast in Lucknow) for
    Dussahari variety


  9. If we are going to judge the best mangoes, lets not forget the Andhra varieties namely,Banganapalli which is also exported. Here I would like to include the variety that grows in my compound the name no one here is able to give. It has a very sweet taste but we are unable to cut ripe ones into solid slices. It becomes like pulp.
    BTW, does anyone know the name?

  10. RS,


    Btw, there’s also another variety where a bee flies out when you cut the fruit open. Can’t remember which one. The insect lays its eggs on the fertilised mango flower. As the flower grows into a fruit, it envelops the larva. The fruit and insect come of age together, before the insect finally burrows through the fruit and flies out. I’m not sure if this is a family myth though.

  11. All: hapus is the the way to go. Any other suggestion is just plain wrong. Just coincidence it’s from my hometown – Goa (don’s forget the cashews and feni).

    One Pakistani mango = 10 Indian mangoes (*mirthless laughter*) …

  12. RS, indeed nothing can beat the Banganapalli mango . The one growing in your backyard is probably a “Rasam”. They are soft, sweet filled with fibre and juice inside. The consumption of mango with curd rice is a heavenly experience.

  13. Gaurav: you probably got The Acorn onto some banned list :-). Btw I think tequila feni as Mexican/Floridian mango Indian mango.

  14. Praveen, there are plenty of mango rasalu – those that are pulpy and juicy and can’t be cut without making a mess.

    Formerly RS, if the mango that you grow is extremely sweet and 10 to 20 cm long, it could be chekkara kele (sugar candy) – one of my favorites along with banganapalli (ripe or not), of course.

  15. No mangoes can match Kesar of Junagadh; I’m a bit lucky to find them in the UK every summer ๐Ÿ™‚ Once, I carried a few while going back to my college in Warangal (AP) after summer vacation; one of my Keralite mates in the hostel took all gutlis, so that he can grow mango trees in his back garden in Kottayam.

  16. Look, the hapus (alphonso) mango is the best. If anyone has another opinion its because they are backward

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