Summer's favourite, Mango matters

VAISHALI  VIJAYKUMAR follows the fruit’s trail from farm to market, uncovers the seasonal business behind the king of fruits.

Published: 08th May 2018 04:49 AM  |   Last Updated: 08th May 2018 03:24 PM   |  A+A-

Malgova is one of the most common varieties

Express News Service

CHENNAI: Balamani, alphonso, sapatta, imam pasand, banganapalli and malgova. These are not merely names of mango variants. These are luscious creations and soft sentiments of nature to help humanity survive every unforgiving summer. The mango frenzy has hit the city.  The much-beloved varieties like banganapalli from Andhra Pradesh, alphonso from the markets of Mumbai and the native favourites like kottoorkonam, priyoor and kilichundan have already made their entry into the Chennai market. 

Fresh from farm
While you can find the king of fruits in April, the produce peaks during May and can be found in the market until July. Tamil Nadu is native to more than 18 indigenous varieties of mango or mambazham: senthooram, kallamai, kadakku, manglora, pasaladu, karunkurangu, kalapadi and grape. Each type has a different size and the colour ranges from dark green to bright yellow to dark shades of orange and red. 
Cultivated in Dharmapuri, Krishnagiri and Natham region of Madurai, these mangoes are then brought to Salem, where they are segregated.

Photos: Ashwin Prasath, D Sampathkumar

Some are dispatched to foreign shores while the others are distributed within the state and across the country in the northern part. “Since hot temperature and sunlight is one of the most important factors required for the cultivation, mangoes are always in demand in countries with cold weather like Europe. Mangoes from other states like Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh are slightly expensive,” says city-based celebrity chef Ram Prakash, who is a Guinness record holder and comes from a family of farmers. 

Worth the wait
Thangapandi C is an engineering graduate, who has taken up mango farming as a third generation family business. With a cultivable soil and large acres of land, farming is the main occupation for the people in Saranthangi, a village near Alanganallur in Madurai district. The mango groves extend up to Natham, another village in Madurai. “Those days our grandfather used to grow two or three varieties called kalami, kaasaladu and raw mangoes for pickles. But these days only those which sell the most in markets and the one which are sweet are opted for,” says Thangapandi, adding that cultivation takes six months. The rest of the time they cultivate other crops or engage in other occupations.

“The flowers start blooming from December and the fruit is available for six months,” he says. During the growth phrase, even the smallest version called vadu maanga is plucked to be pickled. “Of course we are dependent on the rainfall. The rains determine the healthy size and rich colour of the fruit. Mangoes can be grown in red soil. There is a specific soil called saralla mannu that gives a better yield. Despite the small size the mangoes taste pulpy and sweet,” he explains. 

Thangapandi says that mangoes do not require much manure and maintenance unlike most other fruits. However, despite the diversity in varieties, only the popular ones have been making to the market. “We also have jaadi maanga, balamani, grape manga, manoranjitham and sapota. Sadly many of these don’t make to the main cities. Those that are big, colourful and smooth are the most preferred. The local varieties are sold in local shandys (sandhai),” he says. Raw mangoes fetch more money than the 
ripe ones. 

Organic route
One cannot not notice the increasing demand for everything organic. Situated 70 km from the city in Thiruvalangadu is 1st Q organic farm, owned by CM Reddy who has been in this business for 20 years. His 150-acre mango grove with 6,000 trees under cultivation now speaks volumes of his passion for organic farming. “Our cultivation has three phases — beginning, middle and end season. Alongside mangoes, we also grow vadu manga and avakkai for pickle, and dried mango for fries. Even the leftover mangoes are peeled, pulped and sold in bottles throughout the year,” explains the owner, who currently supplies to over 10 stores in the city. He owns indigenous breeds of gir and ongole breeds of cow that yield a good quantity of milk. This cow dung forms the major component of the manure.

They currently have six varieties of mangoes —  alphonso, balamani, imam pasandh, jawari and mallika. Each variety has 1,000 trees. “We also conduct organic tours to educate people on how the fruits are grown. We have an agricultural specialist who explains the soil types, varieties of native mangoes and how to pick the right ones,” he shares. Different varieties grow at different intervals. Not all mangoes ripe at the same time. If there is a bunch of ten ripe mangoes for the day, the next set might ripen only the next day. “Our loyal set of customers know what we sell. Organic mangoes are given only after they ripen and are plucked directly from the tree. Ideally a farmer must know how to sell and people should know what to buy,” he explains. 

Delay in monsoon, deciding on the target customers and estimating the sales of different varieties in different states remain a challenge though. “Certain varieties are famous only in few places. Unless you sell them there, profitability is a big question. For instance, jawari sells well in Karnataka and imam pasandh in Singapore. That’s the reason the popular and best of the produce go abroad while the rest are sold in local market,” he says. He says that there all kinds of customers — some who cannot complete a meal without mango, and some who consume only when the prices go down. 

Pick the right one
●    Mango is a seasonal fruit. The ideal time to buy one is between May-July. 
●    Temper, fragrance and skin texture determine the ripeness
●    Wrinkles and black dots indicate that it is ready to be consumed  
●    After purchasing mangoes, irrespective of whether it is raw or ripe, soak it in water and then consume. Water will absorb the outer coating if any
●    It is better to buy mangoes in a raw state and then ripen them at home
●    If the skin of the  mango is smooth and glossy then there are high possibilities of artificial ripening

The yellow power

●    Mango is rich in fibre and helps with constipation
●    Adding it to daily diet would provide good potassium 
●    Mango leaves are used during traditional rituals and have high medicinal properties
●    Improves blood circulation
●    Boosts immunity and helps during pregnancy


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