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Aam Janta: Meet the most popular mangoes from around the world

From the big, bland Tommy Atkins to the world’s sweetest, the Carabaro, mango mania outside India is of an entirely different flavour.

more lifestyle Updated: May 20, 2018 10:30 IST
Rachel Lopez
Rachel Lopez
Hindustan Times
‘We like our mangoes sweet because our palate prefers strong flavours. In the West, mangoes tend to flavour drinks, or go into salads that require heat. So while we prize sweet, soft mangoes, others develop ways to make them firmer, less fibrous,’ says Dayakrishna Sharma, vice-president of the All India Mango Growers’ Association. (Pixabay)

Don’t choke on your chausa, but mango varieties around the world are starting to explode. While India still produces 65% of the world’s mangoes, Indian mango types make up just 1% of those sold in the world market. And while Thailand, Pakistan, Brazil and Mexico still lead in exports, nations like Philippines, Tanzania, Israel and South Africa are developing varieties that may change the way the world views our king of fruits.

“The world differs widely in what people want from mangoes,” says Dayakrishna Sharma, vice-president of the All India Mango Growers’ Association, who has been researching mango cultivars. “We prefer them sweet because our palate prefers strong flavours. We’ll happily buy two kgs tonight and finish them by tomorrow.” In the West, he explains, mangoes tend to flavour drinks. They also go into salads or into recipes that require heat. And customers tend to buy just one at a time. “So while we prize sweet, soft mangoes, others develop ways to make firmer, less fibrous ones.”

India’s mangoes have been going places since the 4th and 5th centuries BCE, when Buddhist monks took the fruit to Malaya and eastern Asia. By the 10th century AD, the Persians were taking it to East Africa and by the 1500s, it was on Portuguese ships bound for West Africa and Brazil. History gets clearer by the 19th century. There are records of the fruit arriving in Mexico via the Philippines and the West Indies, and, after some false starts (Native American attacks, cold spells, hurricanes), in the US.

Take a look at mango varieties and obsessions from outside India.

At a mango market in Thailand. The most popular variety here is the Nam Dok Mai, a fibreless, sweet mango usually enjoyed with sticky rice and coconut milk. (Getty Images / iStock)

The Philippines: The island nation is obsessed with record-breaking. In 1995, their Carabaro variety made it to the Guinness Book as the sweetest mango in the world. In 2009, the country set another record, for the world’s heaviest mango, at 3.5 kg.

USA: Why do NRIs buy mangoes from ethnic stores and not the supermarket? Because American mangoes are bigger and prettier but just don’t taste of home. Most local hybrids come from Florida. Popular types include the large, oval, green Kiett, and the ambitiously named Sensation, which Sharma describes as having “glossy red skin”.

Then there’s the Tommy Atkins. Think of it as the basa of mangoes – so bland, it’s been giving mangoes a bad name since 1922. It’s named for the farmer who kept submitting the mangoes for commercial sale in the 1940s and ’50s. The fruits were deemed “unremarkable” by the tasting panel, but growers loved the size, disease resistance and long shelf life. By the ’70s the Atkins was planted more than any other type in Florida.

The Haden, another popular type, traces its ancestry to Malgova mangoes from Tamil Nadu. 12 grafted trees of various mango types were sent from India in 1889 under a programme to introduce tropical fruit to America. Ten died in a freeze a few years later. But the Malgova survived, with eventual hybrids yielding sappy, fibrous fruits with sweet flesh.

Other Florida mangoes include the Kent (green-yellow, large, creamy), the Gold Nugget (virtually fibreless, patented in 1990) and the Van Dyke (rich, sweet, small and popular in Europe).

Brazil’s purple-skinned Palmer mango is so juicy that locals massage the fruit, make a hole in it and suck out the pulp. (Getty Images / iStock)

Jamaica: This is now the home of the Bombay mango — developed from a single seed brought over by Indian immigrants and eventually introduced to the US too. The fibreless dark-orange flesh is said to be rich and spicy; it is no longer grown in India.

Haiti: Say Bonjour to Madame Francique. No one knows why she’s named that but she’s Haiti’s only mango export to the US – her skin can withstand the hot-water and cold-water baths that are necessary to resist fly infestation. The fruit is kidney-shaped, and has a rich, sweet-spicy taste. Widely considered one of the best in the Caribbean.

Israel: The emerging mango superpower has the world’s highest yield per acre, with most varieties descended from American mangoes introduced in the 1970s. Popular types include the Maya (juicy, developed in the ’40s and named for the horticulturist’s wife) and the Shelli (delicate, apple-shaped, lasts a month). Others include the delightfully named Tango, Noa, Omer, Tali and Orli. “In the US, the Tommy Atkins is slowly being phased out in favour of the Maya,” Sharma says.

Egypt: The country’s mangoes came from Sri Lanka and the first shrubs were planted in 1825. Today, Egypt exports to 20 countries in central Asia and Europe. In demand species include the Owais (sugary, dry), Zebdea (white, sweet, buttery) and those with names like, ahem, Indian, AlFons and Sukaria.

A woman sells mangoes in Malawi. The earliest mango plantations in Africa date back to the mid-19th century. (Getty Images)

South Africa: The earliest plantations date back to the 1860s, but the 1990s were the decade in which new varieties were created and commercialised. Heidi was released in 1990 and is known for its shiny yellow-red skin, sweet coconut-like flesh and heart shape.

Mexico: More than half of the nation’s mangoes are eaten in America. The top type, Ataulfo, is also called the Champagne mango, Adolfo, or honey mango, for its gold colour, thick flesh and intense sweet taste. It’s likely a hybrid from mangos planted 200 years ago by Filipino workers.

Brazil: The fruit reached Brazil in the 1600s from South Africa and the Philippines. By the 1800s, locals were familiar with types called Bourbon, Rosa, Augusta and Carlota. Brazilians, like Indians, eat most of the mangoes they grow. The purple-skinned Palmer, however, exports all the way to the UK. It’s so juicy that locals massage the fruit, then make a hole in it to suck out the pulp. The other popular type is the Bourbon, red skinned, sweet and sticky.

Australia: Seeds from India, Ceylon, the East Indies and the Philippines were on boats headed to Australia with the earliest settlers in North Queensland. By 1875, one plantation held 40 varieties from India alone. Australians take pride in their Honey Gold and Kensington Pride mangoes.

First Published: May 19, 2018 20:25 IST