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Friday, June 6, 2008

Monarch of fruits

Fruit of the gods: The Mango

Summer holidays are not complete without mangoes. Starting with ‘Ugadi Pachchadi’, the special delicacy prepared on Telugu New Year’s Day, there are many dishes, in which mango is used as a flavouring agent. Lemon and tamarind, the regular condiments used to flavour ‘Pulihora’, the rice preparation, are replaced by the tang of the raw mango.

Mango finds its way into most dishes and even desserts. The entire household, from the newborn to the toothless grandparents, relishes mango juice and there is no Telugu homestead that doesn’t prepare ‘Avakkai’ pickle. Every season, something new is discovered. Jams, jellies, milkshakes and yogurt come out in the market. This summer, popular film director Sekhar Kammula has announced that he wants to serve ‘Avakkai Biryani’ (the name of his new film) to his fans. Taking a cue from the film director, some chefs in the city are vying with each other to patent their preparation with the same name.

Mango, undoubtedly, is the most popular fruit in India. There are over 1,000 different varieties of mangoes in the world. The fruit comes in different shapes, sizes and colours depending on the ripeness. The colours range from yellow to green to orange or red. The fruits weigh as little as a few ounces up to a few pounds.

Horticultural experts say mango is native to southern Asia, especially Burma and Eastern India. It spread to the Malaya Archipelago, Eastern Asia and Eastern Africa. Mango was introduced to California in 1880. The tree lives for a long time with some specimens known to be over 300 years old and still fruiting.

The mango exists in two varieties, one from India and the other from the Philippines and Southeast Asia. The Indian variety is intolerant to high humidity, with bright red new foliage that is subject to mildew bears fruit of high colour and regular form. The Philippine race tolerates excessive moisture and bears pale green and elongated kidney-shaped fruit.

Long life

Mango seedling trees live more than 100 years, whereas grafted ones live only for 80 years or less. One of the largest trees known is in Chandigarh, with a trunk of 3.5 metres in diameter, limbs of 75 centimetres diameter, the crown spreading over 2,250 square meters with an annual production of about 16,000 fruits in peak years at the age more than 100 years old.

Mango, called the ‘King of Fruits’, is the leading fruit crop of Andhra Pradesh, grown in an area of 2.76 lakh hectares which accounts for 60 per cent of the total area under fruits with an annual production of about 3.25 lakh tonnes. While the major mango growing districts are Krishna and Chittoor, other districts like East Godavari, West Godavari, Visakhapatnam, Vizianagaram, Srikakulam, Chittoor, Khammam, Karimnagar and Adilabad also contribute in their own way.

Assistant Director of Horticulture M.V. Madhusudhan says Mango is grown in 65,000 hectares in Krishna district.

The ‘Cheruku Rasalu’ variety of mangoes, called so because of their sweetness akin to that of sugarcane, grown in Nuzvid area in Krishna district are very popular. The Banganapalli is another variety that is popular all over the world.

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