"The choicest fruit of Hindustan", says Amir Khusro in his Persian verse, "for garden pride the mango is sought. Ere ripe, other fruits to cut we ban, but mango serves, ripe or not."
Poetic, yet precise. People have always enjoyed ripe and raw mangoes alike. And perhaps no other fruit, when unripe "serves" us so much as the mangoes does. In this behalf, pickles and chutneys at once came to mind. Both are of several kinds, depending upon the mango varieties, spices and the housewife's ingenuity.
Chutney! The word itself has tang. It is so appetising - raw mango ground with onion and coriander leaves. But you cannot keep it for long. Sweet Chutney, however, can be; it is grated mango preserved in syrup and spices.
Raw mango slices are dried in the sun for use as seasoning. Or they are ground to make amchur- sour mango powder. Sans this no Indian spice-box is complete. For those who have sweet tooth, there is mango jam. Also mango jelly and marmalade.
In Java, tender mango leaves are relished with rice. The Tahis like to munch mango buds. Sanskrit poets tells us that mango buds lend sweetness to the koel's voice.
Urdu poet Ghalib was a mango lover "Aam meethe hon aur bahut se hon-- (sweet mangoes and in plenty)"-- he once remarked when asked to spell out his preference. In fact, kings and nobles often sent their friends gifts of choice mangoes. Many of them had their own mango groves.
From Jan to May we get mangoes from South India. There are so many varieties. Pairi, Neelam, Totapuri and Banganpalli are some of them. Alphonso from Maharashtra and the nearby areas is more famous than all these. It is just fabulous.
Then from June to Aug, mangoes from U.P., Bihar, West Bengal and some other areas flod the markets. Safeda, Siroli, Chausa, Langra DUSSEHRI, Malda--- these are among the more popular varieties.
In Aug the fruit is on its way out. Before that comes Fazli. A single mango of this kind weighs a kilogram, even more. Connoisseurs do no think much of these large mangoes. But they are sweet and packed with juicy pulp. One or twomay serve as a full meal!
When unripe, the mango is rich in Vitamin C. With ripeness comes more or Vitamin A. And plenty of sugar. Small quantities of minerals are also there.
The ripe mango has not much protein. But when it is part of ice-cream it gets protein from the milk. Also balanced in food value is mango milk shake.
In summer a mango-and-milk diet is ideal if one is not much bothered about weight. Those on a slimming course beware.
The Indian Tourism Development Corporation, of late, has been holding an International mango festival to promote tourism and mango exports. More Indian mangoes now head for foreign destinations.
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