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.
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.
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)
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.
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!