Vijay Thiruvady who conducts the Lalbagh botanical walk in Bangalore and floors his audience with his amazing well researched knowledge on the history of lalbagh botanical gardens and the flora of Bangalore once remarked this….
‘If you think Cricket is what unites us Indians as a country, think again. If there is anything as grand and diverse that us Indians experience that we can uniquely claim as our very own it is our mangoes.’ ( Sorry Vijay .. I may not be quoting you Verbatim but I think I have’nt lost the essence of what you wanted to convey )
Dussheri, payari, langda, chausa, badami, pairi, raspuri, haapoos ( alphonso), sindoora, mallika, banganapalli, imampasandu, sugar baby( Sakkara kutty) , malgoa, Totapuri, keshar and the late season entrant Neelam (my favourite) …
It is a shame I can hardly remember a few varieties.
There are probably thousands of them and that is the one thing that so unites us Indians much more than cricket.
Remember the five day test cricket version with two tea breaks, one lunch break and a rest day in between with an option of win, lose or draw at the end ?
That one we inherited from the English.
It is indeed a far cry from the 3 hour IPL match where the cheer leaders seem to slog ten times harder than the players of the game themselves.
Cricket has evolved over the decades and the last century to cater to popular needs and primarily for commercial survival.
Like Cricket, Mangoes too have evolved over the decades and the last century.
The neighbourhood mango tree with raw mangoes that do not easily ripen, the wild and sour mangoes, the bruised ones, the ugly looking ones, the squishy ones that can embarass you when not eaten in privacy, the ones with fibres that can get stuck between your teeth have all commercially competed with the better strains of hybrid varieties that have evolved through horticultural research over the decades.
It is survival of the fittest and the plants and fruits seem to have magically known this since Post -Darwin days. ( After all Charles Darwin only discovered it .. he did not invent the term)
It is the sweetest and the ripest that gets eaten by squirrels, monkeys and most importantly homo sapiens. It is their seeds that have the highest probability of being dispersed and thus being propogated. It is therefore that Mangifera Indica, the tree that bears the king of fruits has evolved over the decades to cater to popular human taste as well as commercial instincts.
Lalbagh botanical garden is hosting a Mango mela with more than 30 varieties of manoges organically grown from all over Karnataka and one from Krishnagiri in Tamilnadu.
Along with Mangoes there is Jackfruit, arguably the queen of fruits. That it is relegated to the ‘jack’ status among fruits is a grave injustice, but we shall let it pass for now.
Everything from homemade clumsily packaged Jackfruit to commercially sold and therefore neatly packaged Alphonso mangoes is now of sale in the Mango mela at the Lalbagh botanical gardens.
For all the fuss about alphonso, I have always been partial about Neelam and even Mallika who are not so commercially successful and glamorous like Alphonso.
I have a little grouse about this Alphonso variety from North Karnataka. It may be the same breed and the same DNA strain that the Karnataka farmers have adopted. But they are not the same as the ones from Konkan. The red manganese rich Konkan soil breeds much aromatic and better Alphonso than the ones from North Karnataka.
Why don’t the farmers get it ?