The King of Fruits

Thawed, sliced Amrapali (from my Dad’s trees)

Summer is peaking in Delhi and there is, on the Web, a lot of hot air around the most beloved of our fruits, the Mango. On it being exported to the US. On Hapoos vs. the Rest. All the heated debates and discussions are rooted deep in our love, bordering on reverence, for this most delicious of fruits. The Mango is believed to have originated in India, and the best varieties still do! There is no debate over that 😀

The mango is no ordinary fruit; it is woven into the warp and weft (literally!) of this ancient country and its customs. Torans made out of the leaves of the mango tree adorn the doorway of Hindu homes on auspicious and religious occasions, and are included into many of the associated rituals. The tree and its fruit are symbols of fertility and abundance, love and devotion. It is also referred to as Kalpavriksha or Kalpataru, the mythological wish-fulfilling tree.

Babur, the first Mughal emperor, called it the ‘finest fruit of Hindustan’. The beautiful mango tree with its evergreen fronds was frequently featured in the beautiful Kangra school Miniatures.

Mangoes 02
fruit laden Amrapali (in my parents’ garden)

The beautiful mango is the inspiration for the ageless Indian motif, the ambi that weaves its way into sarees and other textiles. The ambi was later modified into the elongated Kashmiri badam (almond), better known all over the world as the Paisley motif, after the Scottish town where machine-made copies of the exquisite Kashmiri embroidered shawls were manufactured in the 19th Century.

Mangoes are the most consumed fresh fruit in the world! Our love for this fruit is evident in its prevalence in folklore and anecdotes. There are a couple that I remember.

Birbal, Emperor Akbar’s witty advisor, and one of the Navratans (nine jewels) of his court was, but of course, a lover of mangoes. One warm summer day, the Emperor and Birbal were enjoying a repast of luscious mangoes. As they ate, the Emperor kept adding the stone and skins of the fruit he ate to the pile by Birbal. Once satiated, the Emperor remarked, “Why Birbal, you seem to have eaten more than I!” Birbal looked at the pile of the skins and stones and politely answered, “I do love the mango and have indeed, eaten a lot. But you seem to have polished off the skin and the stones as well!”

The other anecdote is about the 19th Century poet, Mirza Ghalib (my favourite poet ever!), whose favorite fruit was – the mango! His friend Hakim Raziuddin Khan did not share this love. Once, walking together through the streets of Shahjahanabad (Old Delhi), they came across a donkey sniffing over a pile of mango skins and walking away. Khan seized this opportunity and commented, “Dekho Mirza, gadhey bhi aam nahin khatey!” (Look Mirza, even donkeys don’t eat mangoes!) Quick came the repartee from the witty poet, “Gadhey he aam nahin khatey!” (It is only donkeys who don’t eat mangoes!). Just the slight change in one word – one letter – and the tables are turned!

Mangoes used for pickling are different from those that are ripened for fruit. Mango pickles and chutneys are popular all over India. Even tiny mangoes are made into pickles in Southern India. Sour mangoes can be made into panna, a tangy spicy summer drink that quenches thirst and refreshes while replenishing salts (also great with Vodka). The Maharashtrian pannah, is a much sweeter version of this.

But the drink for breakfast has to be the Mango Shake: sweet ripe mangoes blended with milk and a little sugar. Mangoes that have sweet and deep coloured flesh are the best choice for this. My choice is the Alphonso (Hapoos), Amrapali, or Dusseri.

From the two trees in my Dad’s yard I get enough fruit to savour over the year. Actually, the Amrapali ripens at home at the same time that the Langda appears in the market. I process the Amrapali for future use and feast on the Langda while the season lasts! Amrapali stays green even on ripening and has a very sweet, deep orange flesh (no touching up in the first picture!). Every year I make it into jam with some of the lemons from the garden. A few find their way into bright muffins. Some are peeled and the sliced flesh frozen for later use in ice creams or milk shakes. The ripe mangoes stay in my crisper for about a month or so. Just one small mango is enough to make a large glass of milk shake – which my son enjoys every morning into early August.

Mango Shake
Mango Shake
(serves 4)

Flesh from 3 mangoes, about 3 C (I was using Alphonso this time)
1 T sugar (or to taste)
3-3 1/2 C milk (2% or richer)
crushed ice

Blend all ingredients, except ice (unless your blender can handle it), till well, well blended 😀 . Add crushed ice, stir, and pour into glasses for a filling breakfast drink. You could use a hand blender for the job as well.

Special feature in The South Asian on the Mango: The Fruit of Kings and the King of Fruits.
More legends around the mango.
Recipes for everything Mango from Mahanandi.

This recipe is specially for all of you in faraway places – missing mango among other things 🙂 and it’s going places…this is my entry for A Fruit A Month – Mango at Deepa’s Recipes and More, and to Padmaja’s Spicyandhra where she is hosting WBB#11: Summer Fruits!

42 thoughts on “The King of Fruits

  1. Wow! beautiful pictures! Enjoyed reading the post esp. Ghalib and Birbal anecdotes. I would kill for a breakfast like that!

    Hi Shipa. It was good – with grilled sandwiches on a Sun morning! Birbal stories are always fun!

  2. Mangoes 🙂

    Wow! feel like grabbing that mango shake. and i love panna!

    Panna (North Indian) to come soon to The Party – don’t care much for the sweet stuff 😀

  3. Thks for the excellent write up …By the way i am hosting AFAM – Mango for this month .You could send me the link .This could be great entry ….

    Hi Deepa…Have linked to the Mango event! But of course!

  4. Wow Anita- very fine piece of writing! I am definitely NOT with that foolish donkey!

    You make jam you say? Do you seal it in jars? 🙂

    It seems that every 20 years or so, the paisley motif becomes the rage here… I recall in the mid-1980’s that they were everywhere; I might still have a few “artifacts”; I guess we are again due!

    Thank you. 😳

    And, thanks, but no, thanks 😆

    Over here, it never goes out of fashion! The fruit as well as the motif!

  5. I had passed out from sheer disbelief. Alphonso is your choice? 😯 And, that too, you listed it first in the list of choices? Are you finally coming around to accept the fact that Hapoos is the Emperor?

    And I say it again, I want to be born as your child in my next life. Please enclose yourself in a time bubble till I make my appearance.

    Vee, seeing it in pics is all that is going to happen. I heard that the prices are going to be $5/lb.

    Don’t! Pass out. I never said Alphonso was not a good mango! As good as Amrapali. Or Dusseri. Or Langda. 😀 It is listed first because that is what I was using. We got a box for the first time in 15 years! And it tasted exactly like my Dad’s Amrapali! For the last 10 years 99% of my Mango Shakes have been made with the Amrapali – it is sweet ambrosia. I promise to save some for you, whenever you visit (in this lifetime itself!). Then you can tell for yourself.

    $5 for 3 mangoes is not so bad. It seems dearer to us at Rs25/mango (in terms of purchasing power, not direct conversion). It is the King of Fruits after all!

  6. Beginning to? Only now? OMG! There…are…entire…blog…posts…written…like…
    this! Once in a while is OK…like that one! But…when it is used…after every couple of words…Arrrgh! It is one of my pet peeves!

    The other is excessive and heavy handed use of exclamation marks. Like this!!!!!!!!

    Another pet peeve? How many have you?

    Last week I had Grad students with their final sheets titled: “Introduction…..”, “Details…..!” 🙄

  7. I saw those mangoes hanging from the tree and thought this is just the mango design we find on our kanjeevaram saree borders and there i see it written on the very next line…this amrapali mango is the traditional MANGO shape right? So beautiful – and your write up made a very interesting read as usual.

    WIll look forward to panha recipe as well as mango jam…i am yet to buy our first alfonso box – may be today…my inlaws house has a mango tree that fruits twice a year and it is of a fibrous variety, kinda hybrid that grew accidentally from a seed someone just threw in there – but the flesh is simply divine – SWEET!!!

    Yes, Amrapali is the perfect ‘ambi’ shape!

    My parents used to have another mango tree where they lived before. This was plated from a seed by the previous owner. The fruit was small, and the seed large. But when they ripened in the kitchen store, the whole house would be filled with the glorious smell of ripening Dusseri. Guests likely have felt shortchanged at not being served Dusseri which were obviously ready! 😀

  8. Yes. People use punctuation marks excessively at times. There out to be a limit. With fines. Expensive ones. And brutal torturing if that doesn’t work. Like with-holding mangoes. Or adding habanero juice to frozen masala paste. Force-feeding jack-fruit. Just off the top of my head.

    Of course. It is not as bad as too few punctuation marks.


    [quickly checks for missing punctuation…refers Eats, Shoots and Leaves] I think I’m safe.

  9. ooops! I forgot the “gh” in “ought”… now, there’s a word with too many letters!!!…!!…! …and I don’t hear anyone complaining about that! 🙂 [with an air of extreme self-satisfaction]

    No one complained because they were all asleep! And sometimes, I have to pretend work! You keep Indian time? 😀

  10. Woh!! Anita!!
    Lucky you!! to taste those wonderful Indian Mangoes, ripe or raw, whatever form they r, they taste absolutely delicious right!!
    thanks for this great entry!!

    You are very welcome, Padmaja! The pleasure is entirely mine!

  11. Hi Anita,

    I’d like to share my recipe for Mangoes.
    Take one Mangoe
    Cut in Half

    That is the best-est recipe, by far! But…which Mango, that is the question!

  12. Pel, I deliberately omitted two commas in that previous comment. Just for you. At least, I know how to use them. No space before the comma, space after the comma. You will be surprised at how many people get that backwards.

    You’re force-feeding jackfruit? No need. It’s going to happen at Bee’s very soon. The entire blogosphere will soon be smelling… (Vee, that was for you!)

    There, that’s her other pet peeve! 😉

    It’s time to give the jackfruit another chance. (Why does this underline ‘jackfruit’ in red? No jackfruit in Umreeka?)

  13. Anita, for that, tumko dot-giri Maaf.

    Pel, Manisha, you give me dots, I give you @###%^@%#. So there! ğŸ˜Ž

    Smelling through the computer, is that the result of the bump? 🙂

    You are so gracious!!!

  14. Very subtle Anita… 🙂 The reviewer of that book must have been on “pins-and-needles” while writing, no doubt. I find it quite amusing that the first edition had a single punctuation error.

    “@###%^@%#”? Your keyboard slipped down again Vee… that must mean “absolute nirvana”, no doubt. Thanks!

    Oh, we can find jackfruits here Anita: frozen in pieces with the rind attached, canned in syrup, and young, green pieces in salt-water… fresh? perhaps nearer the Mexican/ Umrikan border. 😦

  15. And, she calls herself a food blogger! Bah! It’s Vee I am talking about, of course. Not you, Anita. 😀

    I’ve seen jackfruit in the Korean store. Not seen there in your neck of the woods, Pel?

    I’ve heard of kudampuli, which is garcinia gummi-gutta from Kerala which is said to be similar to Kokum. Kokum is garcinia indica. The Black kokum I have is garcinia morella – at least that’s what the package says!

    There Pel, TLO gives the full account – everything you wanted to know and didn’t even know existed! 😀

  16. Hmmmm…. a variety of kokum… it’s quite tart! Thanks!(Pel starts to think he might want to curb tasting everything; it just may land him in the hospital one day…)

  17. I’ve seen whole durians… but I’m afeared a’dem! Dey’s scary lerkin’ tings, plus I hear’dey’s gotta bad stink when dey’s cut open…

    Well, CO is nearer the source… I need to run down to Appleton to the bigger “asian” store there. May’s store burned down last year- it was Green Bay’s largest- and the remaining stores have yet to produce a can of green chakka (which I want to use for a dish I have in mind). So, does this mean you’ll be making an entry for the June Jihva?

  18. I actually like the raw jackfruit though I have to make do with the canned kind. It is the ripe ones that I don’t like so much.I have no idea how we went from discussing the king of fruits to this, but I am sure Manisha had something to do with it.

    You are right Anita, Mozilla doesn’t like jackfruit and Manisha 😀

  19. After reading your post, i had to have mangoes! and for the first time, i bought mangoes here 😀 the champagne mangoes! nothing matching desi mangoes, but mangoes still!! I have sampled local mangoes only at a friend’s place: you would be surprised to know that she hails from Ratnagiri!! and still buys local mangoes ;).

  20. “Whats’a Mozilla? Is its similar to a durian?”

    Pel: i am loving that questionn 😀

    Anita, you should have let these imaginations run wild 😉

    Musical, I think Pel just pretends to not know (a few things!) – just to amuse us. Remember he’s the jokey kind! 😉

  21. Firefox… Maneeshi was talkin’ ’bout dat dere once b’fer metinks…

    Now, fox-fire I’ve heard about: it’s some kind of wild fungus that glows in the dark, or something like that… an old friend from a few years ago was telling me about it, so that’s totally heresay. If it turns out to be false, you di’n’t hear nuthin’ from me!

    See, what I mean! 🙄

  22. Please Anita…please dont put the pic on flickr…we in the uae cant access…n tat prevents us from seeing all those beautiful pics…so please is it possible to find another alternative for posting your pics???

    Dang it! I’ll have to use photobucket or something else, as Manisha had suggested – just when I thought I had figured out Flickr! 😉 Till then, for you Rashmi, one pic on WordPress. (I am so loathe to learn new things – I defered Flickr for a long time)

  23. Pel, Mozilla is the beast that ate Mosaic. The beast was Godzilla and Mosaic was the ‘inspiration’ for Netscape’s first browser. Mozilla was Netscape’s mascot.

    Firefox does not like Pel’s second link for some reason.

    Flickr is way cool but it won’t be long before Photobucket and the rest of them also meet the same fate. Those in the Middle East will soon have to lead a pictureless existence. I upload pics to imageshack for my friends in UAE and Dubai. Big pain, it is. Because none of those are as user-friendly as Flickr. Also Flickr wins hands-down as a social media tool.

  24. very nice and sweet post! just like the fruit itself. 🙂
    P.S: And informative! 😀

    Hi Reeta! Thanks for reading! And for those mangodi recipes too!

  25. M-
    Oh… I hadn’t thought of that. I suppose that would be considered a bit perverse to the average Muslim eye.

    I do think restraint can be very sexy though; picture a mango with just a little bit of the skin peeled back to expose: THE FLESH. Wasn’t that a good return to the post or what? : – )

    Good job, Pel! And it’s time for a new one! 😀

  26. Very interesting info about the mango’s symbolism….hope you don’t mind but I have added it as a link onto my blog…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s