You may not have noticed, but last March while President Bush was on a trip to India he gave the nod to lifting the ban on importing Indian mangoes into the U.S. – something that seemed lost in all the hubbub about the nuclear deal between the two countries. But one year later, scrumptious Indian mangoes lie packed, ready to be shipped and devoured by the American masses.
In return, the Indian government has agreed to allow the iconic Harley Davidson to be imported and sold on its soil. The rich and famous Indian hunks who’ve been waiting to prove their masculinity testing out India’s new superhighways on the most American of motorcycles might well be thrilled but, in my opinion, the Americans have much more to cheer about.
Indian mangoes, and I say this at the risk of sounding prejudiced, are a pure delight – tender, juicy and delectable beyond imagination.
If any fruit comes close to veneration in India, it’s the mango. There are more than a thousand varieties grown here, making India the largest producer of mangoes in the world. And come June and July, when the merciless sun blazes down fire at close to 120 degrees Fahrenheit and the summer looks long and endless, the one thing that brings relief is the mango. It is said, with reason, that the hotter it gets, the sweeter the mango becomes. Take a walk down a local mandi, a food and vegetable market mostly in an open area, and you’ll see endless rows of the fruit of different varieties from all over the country, each with its unique flavor and aroma. Mango connoisseurs swear they can tell where a particular fruit was grown by its scent.
But you don’t have to be an expert to enjoy them, and most people have a favorite variety that they swear by.
The most famous is the “Alphonso”, which is usually what’s exported around the world – it was sent to England for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. And don’t think HRH Elizabeth and family have all the luck: DHL, the courier service, even has a special delivery option called the mango express where one can send Indian mangoes to anywhere in the world on reduced rates. Now, there’s a sign that proves just how popular the fruit is.
Most Indians who love mangoes, and can afford to buy them, have sweet memories associated with them, and I don’t only mean the palate. For me the word conjures up memories of my mother sitting us down as children, trying big bibs around our necks, pealing the golden, luscious balls of delight, and handing them over to us, letting us bite into them like they were apples. That’s really the way to eat one she would say, you can’t enjoy it if you worry about making a mess! Even today I have to stifle the urge to eat it that way when I cut it into neat little pieces and eat it with a fork, too conscious of getting my hands all sticky.
Each year in June and July, festivals are held in the different parts of the country to celebrate this royal fruit. Farmers from various mango-growing regions of India proudly showcase their goods while visitors come in hordes, demolishing them like they’re going out of fashion. This year Americans too can have their fill at the mango festival scheduled to be held in Washington, D.C., in June. Make sure you are hungry when you get there. One word of caution though: mangoes are high in calories. Not that that has ever stopped me. It shouldn’t stop you either.