Cultural Significance of Mango
For centuries, Indian writers and poets have romanticized mangos (perhaps ad nauseam). Bookshelves are replete with titles like, “House on Mango Street,” “Mango Kisses,” “The Mango Season,” and intriguingly, “A Case of Exploding Mangoes.” In novels, the fruit represents lust, passion, and sex itself. This erotic symbolism is nothing new, either. According to the book, “Essays in Indian Philosophy, Religion, and Literature,” the fruit held erotic connotations in Sanskrit poetry: Classical Sanskrit writer, Kalidasa, describes Kama’s cupid-like arrows as “mango flowers,” and the Kama Sutra describes acts like “sucking the mango fruit.”
Just as Aztecs thought of chocolate as the food of the gods, the Hindu vedas revere mangos as the same, deeming them a “heavenly” fruit. Mango’s sterling reputation continues today: India’s prime ministers frequently regale famous visitors with a box or two of the fruits. Recipients of India’s finest produce include President Jimmy Carter, Nikita Kruschev and George Bernard Shaw.
Today, mangos are also a status symbol. Those who can afford paying three times the price jump at the chance of purchasing a prestigious early season alphonso.
Origin of Mango
Mangoes are uniquely Indian. Not only is the fruit native to this country, but India is also the world’s largest producer, cultivating approximately 65 percent of the world’s mango supply. Of the 16.4 million tons of fruit produced, the majority goes to local consumption.
Availability of Mango in India
Most regions—save the colder, dry areas of the north—grow a type of mango. In fact, several states show exceptional loyalty and pride to their particular cultivar: Gujarat to valsad; Goa to ferdinanda; Bengal to the malda and kishenbhog; Bihar to gulabkhas; Krishangiri to totapuri, and on it goes.
Though inclement weather before the season may raise prices, little can stop the onslaught of mangos that hits the market by early March. Every major city in India gets a smattering of varieties throughout summer thanks to coordinated transportation efforts between regions.
Though only a tiny fraction of India’s mangos currently ship abroad, the export market is slowly gaining steam. A 2012 article by the New York Times explains that wealthy buyers in the Persian Gulf and non-resident Indians insist on receiving high-quality, succulent fruits. One family business described selling roughly $200,000 worth of mangoes to wealthy corporate clients in a single season, and compared fruit selection akin to diamond picking. Indeed, mangos are serious business in India. Exports to the US, however, are limited: The US claims a lack of quality checks, but the Indian government decries protectionism.
To learn more about 20 different varieties of India's mangos and their seasonality, click here.
Where to find Mango in India
In the summer, the bright orange fruits are everywhere. Some of the best mangos come from the pushcart sellers lining the streets, and they’re often the freshest and cheaper than those in stores. This is especially true of vendors in the village areas, as they’re usually closest to the mango orchards.
According to 2012 figures published by the National Horticulture Board, Andhra Pradesh is India’s top mango producer, with Uttar Pradesh coming in a close second. Bihar, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Orissa, Maharashtra, West Bengal and Gujarat are other top producing states. Uttar Pradesh’s capital of Lucknow has a veritable mango belt and grows several varieties, including chausa, fazli, lucknowa, jauhari, safeda, amrapali, and husnara.
The varieties roll in like a procession during the balmy summer season, with some lasting for a few weeks before another cultivar takes the spotlight. Early varieties from March to April are bambaiyya, pairi, and banganapalli. Midseason include alphonso and dashehri, and late varieties from July through August are fazli, neelam and chausa. Unfortunately, mangos are unavailable once the warm summer months come to a close.
Checking for Ripeness in Mango
Mangos are ripe when their hard, tough skin gives way to a smooth, velvety texture. Several varieties become richly aromatic as well. The fruit should yield to the touch, as this signifies that its flesh has softened and is ready for consumption. Lift the fruit beforehand: Ripe mangos feel heavy for their size.
As a word of advice, mangoes in India are often covered with sap and light brown spots. Though this image deviates from the glossy, blemish-free mangoes touted in brochures and culinary magazines, these mangoes are still quite edible. Unless the skin is wrinkled and black, then give ugly, marred mangos a try—they could be the most delicious..
The best indicator of spoilage is the fruit’s flesh: Overripe mangos have a dull brown interior, and some become peppered with black spots. Check the smell, too: Overripe mangos possess a sharp, fermented aroma.
Taste of Mango
The English language fails when it comes to describing a mango. Most resources skirt the question by saying, “it depends,” while others go into long-winded scientific explanations. For sure, mango’s taste is rich, sweet, and distinct. Each cultivar varies in its ratio of sweet to sour, and the texture varies, too. Some are firm and crunchy, while others have a smooth, buttery smooth consistency. Some mangos have fine hairs that get stuck in the teeth, while others are like succulent pudding. One bite of a sweet chausa in August is like eating rich custard endowed with a carbonated, bubbly sweetness.
One of mango’s unique flavors is turpenoline, which gives a pine-like quality. Some types, like the langra, alphonso and kishenbhog variety, have this essence more than others. Though this taste is a hallmark of some mangos, the pine-like flavor should subside considerably upon ripening. If the mango tastes like the smell of a cleaning agent, the fruit was picked prematurely, or it is not fully ripe.
As compared to other fruits, mangos have hints of orange, melon, pineapple, peach and apricot.
According to the book, “Flavourings,” a number of dry-sounding chemicals formulate for mango’s complex, multifaceted taste. Some chemicals, such as 4-dodecanolide, impart a peachy, apricot flavor. Others contribute to its fruity, creamy richness; and chemicals such as nerol and citronellol give the fruit its characteristic, floral top notes.
Nutritional Value of Mango
As per the USDA nutrient database, 100g of edible mango has the following nutritional information:
28.1g Carb (9% RDI)
3g Fiber (12% RDI)
.4g Fat (1% RDI)
.8g Protein (2% RDI)
1262IU Vitamin A (25% RDI)
45.7mg Vitamin C (76% RDI)
1.8mg Vitamin E (9% RDI)
6.9mcg Vitamin K (9% RDI)
.1mg Thiamine (6% RDI)
.1mg Riboflavin (6% RDI)
1mg Niacin (5% RDI)
.2mg B6 (11% RDI)
23.1mg Folate (6% RDI)
.3mg Pantothenic Acid (3% RDI)
16.5mg Calcium (2% RDI)
14.8mg Magnesium (4% RDI)
18.2mg Phosphorous (2% RDI)
257mg Potassium (7% RDI)
.2mg Copper (9% RDI)
Health Benefits of Mango
Ayurvedic practitioners have used mangos in remedies for thousands of years. The Vedic Heritage site lists these traditional uses:
--Consuming raw, boiled mangos mixed with cumin seed, sugar, and salt helps with rehydration and combatting heat stroke
--Eating tender mangos with salt and honey aids in digestion. It also remedies dysentery, morning sickness and indigestion.
--Eating raw mangoes improves blood health by aiding iron absorption and the formation of new blood cells. Raw mango also boosts resistance to blood disorders such as anemia.
--Green mango with salt and pepper acts as an antiseptic. The fruit also aids bile secretion and improves liver health.
--Mango’s high vitamin A improves eyesight and protects the eyes from cataracts.
--Eating mangos blended with milk stabilizes weight.
--Mango leaves have antidiabetic properties.
--Consuming the powdered seed combats spleen enlargement, diarrhea and dysentery.
--Drinking tea made with mango bark remedies throat issues such as diphtheria.
--Drinking the water from boiled mango flowers reduces gum inflammation
--When mixed with lemon juice, mango gum and resin from the stems of the tree fight skin disorders and infections such as scabies.
Mangos have several pharmaceutical applications as well:
--According to the Journal of Gastroenterology, mango extracts contain potent anti-inflammatory compounds that fight colitis.
--A 2012 study in Food and Chemical Toxicology reveals that mango bark compounds protect DNA and have antimutagenic qualities.
--A study published in the “Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Medicine” affirms mango seed’s traditional use as an antidiarrheal agent.
--As per a study published in the “Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology,” mango extract reduces airway inflammation, thereby giving relief to asthmatics.
--A study published in “Cancer Letters” has isolated the compounds in mango bark responsible for inhibiting tumor growth in breast cancer cells. Thus, mango bark may serve as a vital cancer therapy complement.
--The “Journal of Pharmacy and Bioallied Sciences” reports a study that concluded mango bark extracts showed potent analgesic and cytotoxic activities, which may help treat tumors and aid with pain management.
--The “Indian Journal of Biochemistry and Biophysics” published a study affirming mango’s traditional use as anti-venom.
--A 2010 study published in “Natural Products Research” found that mango leaves are a potent antifungal.
How to Open/Cut:
Mangos can be open and cut in a number of ways, depending on the variety and its end use.
If desiring for use in salads, stir-fries, or desserts, employ the following techniques:
--For mangos with thick and fibrous flesh, use a peeler to remove the skin. This method preserves the most amount of pulp. Once peeled, cut the mango in half by slicing along the large, oblong pit. This should produce both mango halves. Slice away the flesh from the sides of the pit as well, and then cut the pulp into desired sized pieces.
--If the flesh is too thin and the pulp too mushy, use the “slice and scoop” method, or the hedgehog method: Cut the halves away from the large pit. Hold the half, and use a paring knife to score the flesh into a grid: do not cut through the skin. Next, press the skin into the fruit, which will effectively “pop out” the flesh. Slice away the fruit from the skin—the pieces should be cubed, if scored correctly.
Some mangos have tough skin and yet, feel squishy like a tomato. These mangos are not necessarily overripe: their pulp is simply meant for juicing instead of segmentation. With these mangos, rip a small hole in the top of the fruit and slurp the juice. Continue squeezing the fruit while enjoying its rich, pulpy juice. Or, squeeze the pulp into a bowl for use in smoothies, juices, ice cream batter and custards.
Mangos continue to ripen when plucked from the tree. Thus, keep mangos on the counter if purchased when hard and green. Note: mangos may turn from green to yellow, but mangos with shades of red will not grow redder.
To hasten ripening, keep the fruits in a cardboard box amidst hay or shredded paper—never use plastic. Adding a banana to the box will also quicken the ripening process.
To preserve the life of a ripe mango, place in the refrigerator, where it will keep for approximately one week.
If wishing to enjoy fresh mango after the season has subsided, store frozen mangos. This is achieved by cutting the fruit into segments, placing them on a baking tray, freezing the fruits, and then storing in a plastic bag. Frozen mango chunks keep for approximately one year—just long enough for the next mango season to come around. Or, consider blending the pulp and transferring to a freezer bag.
|Vegan mango spring rolls from|
Mango Recipe Ideas and Uses:
--Make a mango salad dressing by blending the pulp with red vinegar, rice vinegar, olive oil, salt, basil and pepper. Or, make a tropical version by blending with coconut oil, sesame oil, soy sauce, lime, peanut butter, salt, pepper and mint. For a thicker dressing, combine mango with avocado and add mustard.
--Add mango slices in rice paper spring rolls along with shredded mint, tofu, grated carrot, finely sliced bell pepper, glass noodles, and tender lettuce. Serve with a tamarind ginger soy sauce.
--Include mango in Asian stir-fries along with bell peppers, mushrooms, tofu, broccoli, snow peas, and any other desired ingredients.
--Use frozen mango chunks like ice cubes and blend in beverages or cocktails
--Blend frozen mango with nut milk for an icy tropical milkshake. Add cashew nut powder or coconut crème for a thicker, richer consistency.
--Or, use frozen mango for popsicles, sorbet and ice cream
--Create a mango flan, or use as the basis for a raw vegan pie by blending mango pulp with banana and serving in a date nut crust.
--Make a raw vegan mousse by combining mango, avocado, soaked dates and agave for a sweet pudding. Though one can add banana, the fruit may overpower the mango.
--Add dried mango to cereals and trail mix. Include shredded coconut as a good flavor complement.
--Make a vegan lassi by blending mango, ice cubes, coconut milk, cardamom, and cinnamon
--Create a zesty salsa by including diced mango in any recipe. It especially goes well in recipes with black beans, corn, tomato, onion, fresh coriander, and lemon juice.
--Add mango chutney as a side for grilled veggies and mock meats
--Dip dried mango in chocolate. If desired, sprinkle nuts or cayenne powder for an extra kick.
--Make pungent mango chutney and pickles from the tough green varieties.
|Raw vegan mango sushi from|
Banana, coconut, custard apple, date, guava, jackfruit, kiwi, lemon, lime, mangosteen, nungu, orange, papaya, passion fruit, peach, pineapple, pomegranate, pomelo, sour orange, strawberry, tamarind
Herbs, spices, and oil: Nut milk, coconut milk and oil, lemon juice, limejuice, butterfruit, sesame oil, soy sauce, groundnut, salt, pepper, vinegar, champagne, mint, basil, fresh coriander, turmeric, cumin, mustard, chili, chocolate, cashew, almond
Mangos belong to the cashew family.
At New Delhi’s annual mango festival in the summertime, growers come together to promote 500 types of mango.
Mavina mara (Kannada)