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With the summer having set in it is time for mango, a favourite fruit of most. In fact, we are sure mangoes are much loved in many homes. Mango is indeed one of the most popular fruits in the world by virtue of its extraordinary flavour, colour, taste and excellent nutritional properties.

Mango is used as food in all the stages of its development. Whether they are raw or ripe, mangoes can produce variety of dishes. Unripe mango is used extensively in making pickles, chutneys and murabba. Gujaratis use mango to make chhunda and gunda kairi. In Marwari style, kairi ki launjee and gor keri are popularly made pickles. Andhra Avakkai is a very famous pickle from Andhra Pradesh made from raw, unripe, pulpy and sour mango, mixed with chilli powder, fenugreek seeds, mustard powder, salt and sesame oil. Mango Sasam is the favourite mango preparation at every Saraswat wedding. Apart from this, raw mangoes provide a distinct taste to recipes like bhel, poha, fish curries and dals.

Ripe mangoes are used in various dishes such as tarts, soufflés, kulfis, ice creams, puddings, squash, sorbet, shakes and lassi. Ripe mangoes are also used in some curries. Aamras is a popular pulp/thick juice made of ripe mangoes with sugar or milk, and is consumed with roti or puris. Ripe mangoes give a unique taste to the sweet delicacies like sheera, burfi, bhapa doi, custard, kheer and kalakand.

No wonder then that people await the mango season with bated breath and with the arrival of the fruit in the markets, people throng enthusiastically to bring the wonder fruit home to their family.

Mango, indeed the king among fruits

Mango has been ruling over our taste buds for more than 400 years now. The king of fruits deserves all the good titles that come its way because it is so delicious!

In India one can find 500 varieties of mangoes of which only about 35 varieties are cultivated extensively. The mango exists in two races, one from India and the other from the Philippines and Southeast Asia. They are different in looks and taste. The Indian fruit is of high colour and regular form. The Philippine fruit is pale green and elongated kidney-shaped.

History and origin of Mango:
According to scientific records available, this genus originated in the Indo-Burma region. History has it that this wonderful fruit was found in India since very early times. The mango is indigenous to India. It has been cultivated here for over 4000 years. In the Vedas, mango is praised as a heavenly fruit. One can find references in Sanskrit literature as amra.

History has it that the Moghul emperor of India, Akbar the Great (1556-1605) planted an orchard of 100,000 mango trees. And it was during this period that most of the improved varieties of mangoes came into being.

India’s gift to the world:
A much celebrated fruit, mango, is now produced in most of the tropical regions across the world. Apparently the Chinese traveller, Hiuen Tsang, who visited India around 632-645 AD was the first person to introduce mango to the people outside India. It spread early on to Malaya, eastern Asia and eastern Africa. Mangoes were introduced to California (Santa Barbara) in 1880. Besides India, the fruit is now widely grown in China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Philippines, Mexico and Brazil.

Its shape is symbolic:
The shape of mango with a rounded base and a curved tip has an aesthetic appeal. Its shape is commonly used in Indian arts and crafts. From intricate designs of saree borders to filigree used in architecture and jewellery, the shape of mango is widespread.

But apart from its decorative value, it is also considered as an auspicious shape. The dark green and long, tapering mango leaves are also used in many elaborate Hindu puja rituals. They are strung together and hung on the doors of the home on occasions such as weddings and New Year. Mango leaves are used in wedding ceremonies to ensure that the couple bears many children. In Maharashtrian and Saraswat wedding rituals, turmeric paste is applied to the bride’s body with the help of mango leaves. Mango leaves are also used in preparing the kalash for the puja. Auspicious items like haldi and kumkum are kept in mango-shaped container.

In Hindu religion, the mango is also known as a symbol of fertility. It is believed that Goddess Lakshmi always stays on the mango tree. Hence, its leaves too are considered auspicious. Mango is considered a fruit of nectar. Every mango conceals a mango tree in its seed.

A mango tree is a symbol of plenty with its dense shade and abundant fruit. The mango shape is also a symbol of love and hence, widely used in mehendi designs. The mango tree flowers during spring and when it is laden with blossom, the cuckoo sings in the tree. It is thus associated with the season of love in traditional poetry. 

The goodness of mango

Healthy even before ripening:
Mango is tasty, in fact very tasty. In addition it is also very nutrient rich. Numerous are the home remedies that can be prepared from various parts of this fruit. That is not all, mango is used as food in all the stages of its development. Green and unripe mango contains plenty of starch, which gradually changes into glucose, sucrose and maltose as the fruit begins to ripen. It disappears completely when the fruit is fully ripe. The raw mango is a valuable source of vitamin C and a fairly good source of vitamins B1 and B2. Unripe mango is sour because it contains oxalic, citric, malic and succinic acids.

The unripe mango also protects us from the adverse effects of hot scorching winds. Aam ka panna is an effective remedy for heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Eating one or two small tender mangoes, in which the seed is not fully formed, with salt and honey is found to be a very effective medicine for summer diarrhoea. Dried mango powder or amchur is popular in Indian kitchens. To make amchur unripe mangoes are peeled, stoned, cut into pieces, dried in the sun and then powdered. Amchur is also rich in vitamin C.

Ripe mango rich in nutrients:
The ripe fruit is also very nourishing. It has plenty of sugar and the acids contained in the fruit are tartaric acid, malic acid and traces of citric acid. These acids are utilised by the body and help to maintain the alkali reserve of the body. Ripe mango is very versatile fruit for not only does it serve as a dessert in its original form but also as a filling snack! In fact, one mango and a glass of milk in the morning serves as an excellent breakfast as they complement each other very well as mango is rich in sugar but deficient in protein and milk is rich in protein but deficient in sugar. Mangoes also act as digestive aid, as they contain plenty of fibre besides being excellent source of vitamins A and C, as well as a good source of potassium and beta-carotene. Liberal use of mangoes during the season contributes towards formation of healthy epithelium, thereby preventing frequent attacks of common infections such as colds. This is also because of the high concentration of vitamin A in mangoes.

Whether they are raw or ripe, mangoes can produce variety of dishes. Unripe mango is used extensively in making pickles, chutneys and murabba. Gujaratis use mango to make chhunda and gunda kairi. In Marwari style, kairi ki launjee and gor keri are popularly made pickles. Andhra Avakkai is a very famous pickle from Andhra Pradesh made from raw, unripe, pulpy and sour mango, mixed with chilli powder, fenugreek seeds, mustard powder, salt and sesame oil. Mango Sasam is the favourite mango preparation at every Saraswat wedding. Apart from this, raw mangoes provide a distinct taste to recipes like bhel, poha, fish curries and dals.

Ripe mangoes are used in various dishes such as tarts, soufflés, kulfis, ice creams, puddings, squash, sorbet, shakes and lassi. Ripe mangoes are also used in some curries. Aamras is a popular pulp/thick juice made of ripe mangoes with sugar or milk, and is consumed with roti or puris. Ripe mangoes give a unique taste to the sweet delicacies like sheera, burfi, bhapa doi, custard, kheer and kalakand.

It comes with a variety

Mangoes belong to the species of Mangifera and there are more than 1000 names of different mango species. Climate of each country is different and so the quality and species of mangoes differ. Most of the mango trees belong to the Mangifera indica species as the other species ofMangifera have lower quality fruits and they are also known as wild mangoes.

The ripe fruit differ in colour and size, such as orange, red and yellow. Often red on the side facing the sun and are of yellow colour are good quality mangoes and mangoes of green colour are considered as the unripe fruit.

Few Indian species of Mango are Alphonso, Amrapali, Bombay, Banganapalli, Bombay Green, Bangalora, Dashehari, Chausa, Fernandian, Fazli, Gulab khas, Himsagar, Kishen Bhog, Kesar, Langra, Mankurad, Mallika, Mulgoa, Pairi, Neelam, Suvarnarekha, Samar Behisht Chausa, Vanraj, Totapuri, Zardalu. Among them, 20 varieties are cultivated commercially in India and most of these species need specific eco-geographical conditions for their growth.

Let’s know about the most common mangoes you may find in the market:

Alphonso: It is the leading variety produced in Maharashtra and a favourite amongst all. This species is known by different names in various regions like Gundu, Badami, Appas, Khader, Happus and Kagdi Happus.Keeping quality of this fruit is excellent and this is also exported to other countries. It has been found good for canning purpose.

Dashehari: Dashehari mango is one of the oldest mango varieties in the country. This variety derives its name from the village Dashehari near Lucknow. The community inMalihabad takes every effort to preserve the heritage of these fantastic trees as its pulp is sweet and succulent enough to satisfy your taste buds.

Kesar: This is a leading variety of Gujarat with a reddish blush on its yellow skin. It is one of the few varieties exported abroad.

Langra: This variety is indigenous to Varanasi region of Uttar Pradesh. Its mother tree exists in Varanasi and is extensively grown in northern India. This lettuce green colour mango fruit has a distinct turpentine taste.

Pairi: Pairi comes from Goa and coastal Maharashtra with its mildly spicy aroma. Its texture is fibreless and the taste is a delightful balance of sugar and acid. It is widely used to make juice and is good to consume when the fruit turns slightly yellow.

Totapuri: This variety is best to consume when it’s raw or slightly ripe. ‘Tota’ means parrot in Hindi and it has got its name because of its parrot shaped end. It’s not sweet, but a tangy, crunchy fruit. Eat it with salt and chili powder or make pickle of your choice. You can even eat the skin of this variety and believe me it tastes good. 

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MasterChef Sanjeev Kapoor

Chef Sanjeev Kapoor is the most celebrated face of Indian cuisine. He is Chef extraordinaire, runs a successful TV Channel FoodFood, hosted Khana Khazana cookery show on television for more than 17 years, author of 150+ best selling cookbooks, restaurateur and winner of several culinary awards. He is living his dream of making Indian cuisine the number one in the world and empowering women through power of cooking to become self sufficient. His recipe portal www.sanjeevkapoor.com is a complete cookery manual with a compendium of more than 10,000 tried & tested recipes, videos, articles, tips & trivia and a wealth of information on the art and craft of cooking in both English and Hindi.