Mumbai Memoir 92- When the ‘King of Fruit’, arrives in Mumbai!
The month of May is known to be the hottest month of the calendar in India. The sun’s evaporation reaches its epitome for it to truly be called as the ‘Indian Summer’. During such unbearable heat arrives the ‘King of Fruit’- Mango. Mango has been adopted as the National Fruit of India in 1950 but the fruit is known to be existing since Ancient times across the Indian sub-continent. I am a fruit lover myself. Banana and watermelon tops my list of favourite-all season fruits. But Mango is my favourite in the seasonal fruits category. Scientifically a Mango is referred as ‘Magnifera Indica, and in India alone there are 1500 varieties of mangoes cultivated, out of which 1000 are of commercial value. Varieties like Bombai, Himsagar and Kesar, Alphonso, Banganapalli and Langda, Fazli, Neelum and Chausa are the raw native types and several hybrid varieties like Amrapali (Dashheri x Neelum) and Arka Aruna (Alphonso x Banganapalli) too are seen in the Indian market.
If Mango is considered to be the ‘King of Fruits’, then Alphonso Mango is considered to be the ‘King of Mangoes’! This variety is mainly grown in the Ratnagiri district belt of Maharashtra state. It was the Portuguese who taught the Indians, settled in the Konkan, the technique of cultivating Mangoes by the grafting technique. The mango thus is named after a Portuguese military expert Alfonso De Albuquerque, who was instrumental in establishing Portuguese colonies in and around Goa. Colloquially the fruit is called ‘Haapus’ & with the arrival of the ‘King’ in Mumbai the market place just lights up in hues of yellow.
The popularity of the Alphonso mango has reached world-wide. The most highlighting reason for it to be renowned is its taste & fragrance. Its juicy flesh and golden yellow skin is visually & taste-wise appealing and literally casts a spell on all who enjoy it. During the medieval times, spice traders who would visit India and continue their journey further, introduced the fruit to East Africa, Persia, Europe & beyond. Post Indian independence, Royal British administration had ordered volumes of Alphonso mangoes from South Mumbai’s Crawford Market at Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation ceremony events in 1953. Since then it became a common sight to see Alphonso mango-based desserts in world-class European restaurants. In a recent article of ‘The Guardian’ I read about London’s ‘Cinnamon Club’ serving mango & cardamom crème brulee and how ‘The Ambrette’ in the Rye and Margate (South-East of England) slices the mangoes thin and serves them with ice cream made from the mango pulp (Aam Ras). In the ’50 foods you should eat before you die’ list issued by BBC, Alphonso mango lists too!
Its nice to see that a fruit grown in Maharashtra, particularly my native district Ratnagiri, casting a spell on the foodies of England and the world. Since Alphonso mango is a seasonal fruit, its consumption is limited to 3 months (March-May) & the orchard owners grow the fruit as as if they are raising their own children. Every mango laden tree is attended with meticulous focus and all care is taken to make sure that the fruit is best produce. Here is a video for more details on producing Alphonso mangoes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fnzLEg7wDfg Many cultivars from the world want to learn the technique of producing the Alphonso mango. A lot of horticulture students across the world visit Ratnagiri to learn the grafting technique of producing the mango, but when they actually plant the fruit in their respective countries, the taste is not the same. After all, just like child rearing, every fruit gets its basic nurturance from the soil in which it is embedded. It’s a known horticultural fact that just learning the technique of producing juicy Alphonso mangoes is not enough, rather for getting the exact taste, texture and fragrance of the fruit, the students will have to take the climate and soil of Ratnagiri along with them to feel the blessing of nature which we Mumbaikar’s and Indians royally enjoy when the ‘King’ arrives seasonally!
Photo courtesy: Shraddha. C. Sankulkar, www.uncorneredmarket.com and free internet resource