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We must seek out different local varieties of mangoes: Vikram Doctor

This is going to be a tough year for everything, mangoes included. But food journalist Vikram Doctor, who blogs at On My Plate, hopes that like with most things, perhaps the lockdown and these uncertain times will make us appreciate the things we used to take for granted. “Rather than expecting mangoes whenever we want them, we need to appreciate them in season and seek out different local varieties. It amazes me how many people in Chennai still don’t know about Imam Pasand!” he says, adding that we need to find producers who will deliver the fruit direct to home. “With mangoes, because it is a high-value crop, there are more farmers who are selling them directly, through Facebook or their own websites. We just need to go online and find them.” Edited excerpts from an interview:

You’ve spoken about missing your personal favourite this year, the Imam Pasand, if the lockdown continues. Once we can step out, what are the orchard visits you recommend?

In Chennai, I would recommend that people drive down OMR, when the lockdown has been lifted, to Vennangupattu village near Pondicherry where C Ramakrishna’s amazing orchard is located. I’d go for the Imam Pasands, but he has such a variety, from Alphonsos to Banganapalles, Mallikas, Jawahar, Doodh Pedha, and so many more.


What questions do consumers need to ask, according to you?

People need to ask when the mangoes were plucked and how they have been ripened. These fruits are climacteric, which means they ripen even after being plucked, with exposure to ethylene [which fruits produce naturally]. But there are two considerations with this. One, the longer the fruit stays on the tree, the more complex its flavour. So the harvester needs to strike the right balance between leaving it on or picking early — and consumers need to ask about this. The second is that some harvesters hasten ripening by exposing the fruit to calcium carbide. A great deal has been written about how this is carcinogenic. It is carcinogenic for the workers who handle it, not the people eating mangoes exposed to it. The problem, however, is that this will be an imperfectly ripened mango, in addition to probably having been plucked too early [since anyone who will ripen mangoes artificially isn’t going to bother with proper tree ripening].

Watch | Save the Indian Mango: How farmers are hoping to tide over COVID-19 crisis

Will lockdown and the nostalgia that has followed help change the recent obsession for perfect-looking, artificially-ripened mangoes?

I wish. But the way people are getting obsessed about food as they are in lockdown makes me doubt it. I have already started getting messages about suppliers willing to send mangoes from Ratnagiri. Forget about these mangoes being picked too early and artificially ripened, there is also the risk of spreading the virus in all this movement. But people don’t seem to care. And if they can’t care about that, I doubt they will care about getting proper mangoes.

For the younger generation that is not really into mango varieties, how would you suggest they educate themselves and help smaller farmers?

You really need to get to know the producers. Don’t buy in the big markets or online, but find ways to connect with the real producers or people close to them. The good thing about India’s obsession with mangoes is that there are fairs, melas and all sorts of small suppliers, for whom the price we are willing to pay makes their extra work worth it. In Mumbai, for example, I’ve noticed that many Konkani restaurants do a side business selling Alphonsos that come direct from their food contacts on the coast. These are the big, beautiful-looking mangoes that taste good too. As a sidelight, I wish people would spare some of the obsession they have for mangoes for chikoos, which are such a wonderful fruit and ripen around the same time.

Have you had your Mankhurados yet?

Not yet, though they should be getting ripe. The best come from Chorao Island in Goa but I’m not sure how easy it is going to be to go there. Panjim market is a good source, but it is probably closed now. I can only hope some supply happens in North Goa, where I am. I should also look out for Hilarios, which are also good and, I think, originally from this area. But I’m told there were strong winds in the flowering season this year that has knocked off a lot of the crop. I can’t see many fruits on the trees around me.

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Printable version | Sep 20, 2021 5:50:21 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/we-must-seek-out-different-local-varieties-of-mangoes-vikram-doctor/article31315336.ece

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