We have been bringing mangoes from the most famous regions of India and Pakistan to our customers for over eight years now. Every now and then we take a step back to examine why we do what we do and how to do it better. The King-Of-Fruits, mango is a heavenly fruit which can provide a spiritual experience. Mangoes in the Indian subcontinent are abundant and are consumed by the bucket loads in a single sitting. Any mango not perfect is unceremoniously tossed away, but not before every ounce of goodness has been diligently sucked away. Mango is generally consumed in a group and every time a good one is discovered, the eater raves loudly about it. This encourages others to search for their perfect mango with renewed vigor. After the perfect mango had been consumed, the search for the next perfect mango starts. Some always seem to get a good mango, while some always seem to complain, or so it seems!! In the good old days (and even now in villages), each mango had a name which could be identified back to the tree from where it came. Some trees consistently bear good fruit, while some bear fruit which is consistently bad or average. The trees themselves were named after the person who planted the fruit- the planter was elevated to the highest level of respect, almost akin to a magician. Legends of planters abound in the folklore of villages and live on for generations.
I came to the US a quarter century ago and almost instantly lost my appetite for fruits in general and mango in particular- the mangoes in the market did not smell or taste anything like those I had eaten. Initially, I thought that it was perhaps just me remembering a glorious carefree time of my life. But then I would meet people with similar plight and we would remember our mangoes with dreamy eyes. We could understand each other’s plight, but could not explain it to anyone else. These people had tasted the real mango- they knew what the best tastes like. The faithful would refuse to eat anything lesser than what they had known to be the best and would rather go without eating a mango. Some would compromise and make themselves believe that all mangoes are equal.
As I traveled, I got to try different mango varieties. A pleasant realization dawned that there were many more good varieties as were better versions of those I was already used to. Then I found out that there are regions where a particular mango grows the best- the soil and climate of the region help it bloom in the best possible manner. During the days in 2006 when US opened up to the Indian mango market, I decided to get my own fruit, later friends joined in and mangozz.com was born. In 2012 the Pakistani mangoes were allowed into the US and our endeavor continued.
Instantly there was a lot of interest and we wanted to share the experience of eating an awesome mango with others, so we happily took on the challenge. Then the real education started- what started out as a passion for eating good fruit became a profound and humbling education and a philosophy of life. Eating a mango is different from nurturing a mango to perfection. We found that of all the available fruits, mango is one of the most sensitive. We also found that of the thousands of mango varieties available, the top varieties are the most complex of flavors- what makes them taste so good, also makes them highly susceptible to spoilage. Fungus, bacteria, birds, insects all prefer to eat the mango, likely for its taste and its high nutrition value. India grows about 50% of the world mangoes- mango (scientific name mangifera indica) is a native of India and finds mention in the oldest written texts of the country. It is also the national fruit of India, Pakistan and the Philippines. Mango is the most popular fruit in the world - India has the distinction of being home to the most popular and the most grown fruit in the world (banana). India and Pakistan together account for some of the most delicious mango varieties of the world- India has about 1200 mango varieties and Pakistan has about 400.
It was later that I realized that the term "Best Mango" did not mean the same thing to everyone. This can be best characterized by that fact that in my own family each family member has a different favorite variety and each insists that their's is the best. Over the course of the last many years, I have met mango lovers from all walks of life who associate bliss and salvation to their mango. Some typical questions that I get asked are- Which is the best mango? Which is the sweetest? Which one do you like? Are the different mango varieties different- how different could they be? Etc. etc. . The answer to most questions is- it depends. However, going plainly by popularity and sales, if mango is the King-of-Fruits, then Alphonso is the King-of-Mangoes. Opinion is however divided over who is the King-of-Kings: is it the Ratnagiri Alphonso or the Devgad Alphonso? Ratnagiri and Devgad belong to a 250 km long coastal region on the west coast of India that has unique soil and weather. It is also home to a rich mango growing tradition that spans over generations. No matter what any other Alphonso growing region might claim, the Alphonso mangoes grown here are undeniably the best in the world, so much so that mangoes grown here are Geographical Indicator (GI) protected. This means that a mango grown outside of these regions cannot be called a Ratnagiri or Devgad Alphonso mango. When we started selling these mangoes, we were told that an Alphonso is still an Alphonso, so why make a fuss about it. We disagreed and coined the slogan “Not Just Any Alphonso- Ratnagiri/Devgad Alphonso”. This sentiment is echoed by many of our customers.
As we close in on the season, we have a legion of customers who depend on us to get us their favorite fruit. Mango is as close to their heart as it is to ours- one can mess up with them, but not with their fruit. But that is precisely what can happen in every shipment of mango that we undertake. We do not treat mango like a commodity- we treat it like an "Exotic Magical Being" that has "Transformative" and "Spiritual" power. The baby of the mango lives in the fruit which is highly intelligent– this results in the magical transformation of the raw mango starch/acids into sugar as it ripens. Nutrients are distributed throughout the fruit via intricate capillary structures, chemical reactions happen and consequently the mesmerizing aroma, color and sweetness are produced. The rate at which the fruit ripens varies with the environment and transient conditions as the fruit determines whether to ripen slowly or fast. We are required by USDA to process the fruit and kill all harmful bacteria and nullify the reproductive ability of any fruit fly which laid its eggs at the flowering stage and whose larva has burrowed into the sanctuary of the seed, the scar tissue having been sealed as the fruit matured. Alas, when we kill bad bacteria, we also kill good bacteria which keeps fungus as bay. If there are any fungal spores lodged anywhere on the skin or the fruit catches a fungal spore from the environment, this can quickly spread and spoil the fruit. The rate of spoilage can be extremely quick as these mango varieties are very high in sugar content. We have seen the fruit going from perfectly fine to perfectly black and spoil within 12 hours. It is no surprise that we find customers who receive blackened fruit and cannot understand why we would specially pack such fruit for them. Not to mention the choicest of superlatives that can sometimes accompany the receipt of such a shipment. Some varieties are more prone to spoilage than others, but all these varieties have the capacity to deteriorate if conditions are less than ideal. Our work starts in October when we make our initial trip to the orchards to gauge season progress and ensure proper orchard maintenance has being carried out- we do another trip in February. If demand increases, we generally don’t increase our capacity during the season as is it difficult to do due diligence at short notice. Even with the existing processes, the variation is enough to keep us extremely busy.
One will notice that the popular mango varieties have been given titles by mango lovers. If Alphonso is the King-of-Mangoes, Kesar is called the Queen-of-Mangoes for its sweetness and reliability. Kesar variety was first grown in Junagarh in Gujarat in 1941 and was named Kesar by the Nawab (King) of Junagarh for its yellow color and pulp. The most fragrant of the Kesars come from this region and are called ‘Gir’ Kesars, the most famous being the Kesar from Junagarh. ‘Gir Kesar’ is also a GI protected fruit. This fruit is smaller in size and is considered the most fragrant. As a rule of thumb, the smaller the fruit, the more flavorful it is. Kesars are grown in Karnataka, Maharashtra and other regions of Gujarat, such as Valsad and Bhuj. Kesars from Bhuj are generally sweeter and bigger in size than other regions.
One of the premium mango growing regions in the world is the Andhra Pradesh region of India and it is legendary for its mangoes. The South Indian region which borders the state of Tamilnadu grows some of the best Banganpalli mangoes. Banganpalli, named after a village in Andhra, is called the Pride-of-Andhra and rightfully so. The same mango is also called Benishaan, Safeda or Chapta in different parts of India. Some of best characteristics of Banganpalli are exhibited by the fruit grown in the Kadapa region. Mango from this region has a thin skin and a light yellow color when ripe. The fruit itself is fiberless and its sweetness is legendary. When the fruit is ripe, sugar oozes out of the big pores- folks who insist on consuming a clean looking mango are likely to miss out on the best!! It’s skin is so tasty that it is generally eaten along with the mango. The fruit is full of juice, but the top juicy-mango spot here is taken by the rasalu (‘ras’ means ‘nectar’) mango from the North Nuzvid region of Andhra Pradesh. When ripe, this mango is like a balloon filled with juice- this juice is served during weddings and other celebrations in the state. People freeze the juice so that they can use it later in the season. Nuzvid generally grows the 'chinna rasalu' – ‘chinna’ meaning ‘small’ for its small size. It larger cousin, the 'peda rasaulu' or ‘big’ rasalu grows mostly in the southern region of Andhra and matures later in the season. Apart from Banganpalli and Rasalu, other varieties which are very popular here are the Himayat and the Malgova. Both are larger sized original mango varieties from the region. Himayat mango has a special place in a mango folklore of the region- this variety is highly fragrant- so fragrant that we were once accused by a customer of spraying our mangoes with perfume. Sweet and soft-as butter, this mango is also called 'imam pasand' or ‘favorite of the imam’. While there are legends of emperors going crazy about this mango, it has a very short season and an equally short shelf life. The fruit is variable in size and that causes problems sometimes when the size grows too large. Last 2 years, we have been unable to bring the fruit here due to size issues (we are trying to overcome these limitations for the future). The same is also true of Malgova, which grows in Tamil Nadu –Andhra border. It is large in size, has a small seed and is very juicy. The Malgoba mango is also believed to be the parent of the Haden mango and subsequently other mango strains of the North American Mangoes.
The other two varieties of mangoes that are famous in this region are the Totapuri and the Neelam. These varieties are also grown in the Northern Indian regions. In fact, Totapuri is likely the first mango that was exported to Persia from India in the fifteenth century. This variety is pointed at both ends and exhibits colorful shades of yellow, red and green like a parrot, hence the name (‘tota’ means 'parrot'). This is a flavorful and fiberless variety, which is not very sweet, so it spoils less quickly and retains its form. This is ideal for mango salads and salsa. The Neelam mango is also one of the original flavors and a personal favorite of birds and insects- it is so yummy that humans have to fight for it!!
The mangoes from the North of India follow the mangoes of the South in season. As the season heats up, the first to mature in North India are the Dasheri mangoes. These mangoes have been around since old times and are said to have gotten their name from King Dashrath of the legend of Ramayana. The dasheri mango pulp is dark orange in color and has a characteristic mango flavor. In the North, mango juice is typically made from this mango. Incidently, there is a dasheri village in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, where there is a dasheri mango tree said to be hundreds of years old. Amongst the oldest mango trees in India, the sacred mango tree in Kanchipuram is speculated to be more than 3500 years old and yields 4 different varieties of mango. The Malihabad area around Lucknow grows the most flavorful dasheri mangoes. Another mango from the North is the Ratol mango, named after the village of Ratol where the mango was first grown. It is still said to have the original ratol mango tree which is more than 100 years old. This variety was transplanted to Pakistan and is said to have been named ‘Anwar Ratol’ after ‘Anwar Sahib’ who introduced this variety to that region. The progression of this mango in Multan has resulted in a superbly fragrant and sweet variety, which is unlike any other. Small in size and extremely sensitive in nature, this mango is exactly what a mango lover dreams of in a mango. Anwar Ratol is widely grown in Punjab and Sindh areas of Pakistan. The variety is very sensitive and highly susceptible to the elements. The ones that don’t ripen properly, deteriorate at an equally fast rate. A cross between Dasheri and Neelam mango that has proved to be very stable and popular with our customers has been the Mallika mango. This mango has wonderful aroma, flavor, sweetness and it ripens uniformly to yellow color.
This brings us to the Emperor of Mangoes- the Chausa mango. When the season for all the other mangoes is waning, the Chausa comes along. And what a majestic fruit it is- large in size, highly fragrant, lovely yellow in color and one of the sweetest mangoes there is. It needs to be handled with extreme care and has a low shelf life. Some of the best Chausa mangoes are grown in the Multan region of Pakistan. Lucknow and Saharanpur in India are also well known for Chausa. White Chausa follows the Chausa mango in season. The White Chausa gets its name from the whitish tinge of its pulp. In sweetness, it is very high like the Chausa. In flavor, it exhibits a Citrusy flavor and has a longer shelf life than Chausa. Late in the mango season, the White Chausa is given company by the Rattewala which is an excellent late season, fragrant variety.
Sindhri mango is the most famous mango from the Sindh region of Pakistan - it is most delicate of the mango varieties, delicate but strong. It can become very large in size. One of its characteristics is that it bears the elements very gracefully- the hotter it gets, the sweeter is the Sindhri. The Sindhri from the Mirpur Khas region of Pakistan is legendary. Sindhri also grows in the Rahim Yar Khan and the Multan regions of Pakistan- as we go North, the fruit becomes sweeter.
My personal favorite is however the Langra mango. Named after a lame hermit who first grew this variety, it is a variety which does not change color- the ripe mango remains greenish and does not turn yellow. One of the sweetest and most flavorful varieties, it is ideal for sucking nectar through the mouth. The best of the Langra mangoes come from the Banaras region of India- it is also grown in the state of Punjab in both India and Pakistan. A slight variation of the Langra mango is the Malda mango, which is grown further east of Banaras in the states of Bihar and Bengal. There is a whole legendary group of mangoes grown in the Murshidabad area of Bengal- the Himsagar, the Fajli and a host of other varieties, which we currently do not bring due to logistical limitations of the approved supply chain. We hope to bring them here in the coming years.
Over a period of time, many good growers and mango lovers have come to depend on us to secure their mango every year. We have a small dedicated group of people in the USA and abroad who work tirelessly all year round to secure the season for us. While we face a lot of flak from folks whose fruit gets spoilt, we get a lot of encouragement from most of you. We also have the realization that our website is the only place where the best mango varieties, from the best regions of the world are available to a mango lover. We go through a roller coaster with every shipment- there are customers who wait for the fruit to arrive with their families, only to find that their fruit has not held well. And we also have customers who have enjoyed our fruit on their death bed and this is all they would ever eat even when the doctor told their families that they might not eat anything at all. Absorbing the good and the challenging all in our stride, we move along, spreading whatever good we can in a simple manner.
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