A 43-year-old zestful bearer’s fresh and tangy pickle tales

The South Mada street of Mylapore is a green spread during this time of the year. Mounds of raw mangoes in all sizes and hues of green flood the markets.
Andhra mango price ranges from Rs 100 to Rs 120 per kg.
Andhra mango price ranges from Rs 100 to Rs 120 per kg.

CHENNAI: The South Mada street of Mylapore is a green spread during this time of the year. Mounds of raw mangoes in all sizes and hues of green flood the markets. Scorching heat, crowded streets and chaotic traffic — nothing seems to stop the hawkers from carrying on their business. One among them is S Kavitha. Rain or shine, the 43-year-old sits under a multi-coloured umbrella, outside the Mylapore Hindu Permanent Fund office on a footpath with a spread of raw mangoes. 

Meticulously chopping the raw mangoes into slices to make avakkai pickles for a customer, she says, “People cannot cut these mangoes at home because of the hard seed. Customers either bring homegrown ones or purchase from the shop and bring them here to cut for `30 per kg.” Kavitha shaves off the portion around the seed which is considered to be edible and tasty for pickles. She knows her patrons by their name and welcomes them with a warm smile. 

Season and varieties 

Kavitha was 20 years old when she started selling raw mangoes for pickles. “My mother used to sell vegetables. I wanted to do something different. The area is known for its Brahmin population, so why not mavadu? Earlier, we were only three of us in the market. Now there are many stalls. We need to come on all the days to survive this competition otherwise we will lose out on our customers. This is our livelihood,” she says. 

The time from August to January is considered to be the season for cut mango varieties. Mavadu (small mangoes), makali, narthangai (bitter orange), mangai inji (mango ginger), kadarangai (lemon), nellikai (gooseberry), and green pepper — to name a few. February to April is considered to be the peak season for mavadu business. “The prices have shot to `250 per kg due to poor harvest. The mavadu in Madurai and Azhagar temple is famous. Supplies from Kerala, Madhavaram, Coimbatore and Tanjore come to Koyambedu and we purchase in bulk from the market. We used to sell 500 kg and sales reached `50,000 during the weekends. Now the business has come down since people are apprehensive about their health and blood pressure levels shooting up because of pickles,” she rues.

February to July is the season for raw mangoes. Rasool, Bengalura, Andhra mango from Guntur and Nellore, Romania and naatu mango (country mango) are a few local varieties. “Andhra mango is the best for avakkai pickle. It’s zesty and absorbs salt and spice better. The price ranges from `100 to `120 per kg. Bengalura is cheaper at `40 to `50 per kg. Romania is less tart and considered to be the second option for pickles. Each raw mango is suitable for a particular delicacy. Small and cut mangoes for pickles, Bengalura is for thokku or pachadi, and more,” explains Kavitha. 

Flavourful returns 

People buy them in bulk and export it to children living abroad. Some of the pickle manufacturers also purchase in large quantities. “Each stock lasts for a day or two and then ripes. We need to carefully sell them or they will go waste. I love pickles. I give my raw mangoes and customers make flavourful pickles in return for me,” says Kavitha who also home delivers raw mangoes to her customers in Velachery, Mylapore, Adyar and Besant Nagar. Her two sons and husband deliver the pickles on their bike. “We do business throughout the year.  But we also need to change it according to seasons. I sell flowers during the time of festivals,” she says. For details, call: 8807271897

Mango matters
Mavadu has anti-oxidant properties 
Green pepper with lemon juice and salt is good for digestion
Makali is a blood purifier
Raw mango seed — dried and ground is good for the stomach
A mix of mango ginger, lemon, chilli, and salt is considered to be a divine combination with curd rice

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