Agriculture

Mango walk: fields of green and gold

When Passenger sang, ‘You only know you love her when you let her go,’ I didn’t think it could be about a fruit. But that’s how it felt walking down mango orchards in Sricity, knowing that this was the last batch of mangoes that would grow this summer.

Mango walk: fields of green and gold

A mango walk, organised by city-based Exoticamp, took us to the orchards in Sricity, a business township located about 55 kilometres from Chennai, on the other side of the border in Andhra Pradesh. Government demarcations mean nothing to the mango trees that grow on either side; as we drove past by orchard after orchard, the signboards changed from Tamil to Telugu every few kilometres.

We finally got down at C Ramesh’s orchard in Arambakkam in Tamil Nadu, right across Pulicat Lake. Ramesh has been a mango farmer for 30 out of the 44 years of his life. All that he knows, he learnt from his father who himself was a mango farmer. After cultivating trees on scraps of land that they owned, around 10 years ago, Ramesh bought this land on lease.

Mango walk: fields of green and gold

“We grow banganapalli, rumani, jawari and sinduri here,” he says, waving his hand towards the acres of land. “This season has not been great for us,” he informs us, explaining how the Nipah virus scare has brought down sales. “Moreover, for the past few years, there is a fear among consumers that the mangoes are ripened using carbide. We don’t do any of that here but people have just begun to avoid mangoes.”

He takes a mango in hand, to demonstrate the difference from an artificially ripened one. “Look at how unevenly ripened this is. People get attracted to the uniform sheen of carbide-ripened mangoes, but the less good-looking it is, the safer and tastier it is,” he says. Ramesh’s primary customers are small-scale sellers who take the produce to Koyambedu and Parry’s in Chennai. End-users like us are rare here.

Mango walk: fields of green and gold

Ramesh allows us to take a tour of the orchard, and we plod ahead on the soft wet soil. It had rained the day before and the weather is favourable: the sun an unthreatening tear in the sky. The families — especially the children — are visibly excited. The branches droop with the weight of the mangoes but the low-hanging ones do not interest us. The fun, arguably, is in plucking the ones just out of our reach.

Grown men turn into excitable boys again, as they climb the trees to pluck mangoes for their wives standing underneath with outstretched hands. A boy perches on his father’s shoulders and tugs at a mango, showering them both with last night’s raindrops collected on the leaves. Yet another boy is stuck in a tree, afraid to come down, and lessons in being a man are passed down, father to son, “If you are afraid of falling, you will never rise.”

Rows of banganapalli are followed by rows of rumani and jawari. “The banganapalli flowers bloom in January and the jawari in December,” says Ramesh. “They both start ripening in April and last till June. From next month, there won’t be any mangoes.”

Banganapalli, which is long and curved on one side, sells the most; followed by the rounded rumanis. “For eating directly, banganapalli is the best, but if you need to make avakai and other mango pickles or you want juice, go with rumani,” says Ramesh.

Mango walk: fields of green and gold

We bite through the skin of the mango to the sweet, juicy flesh. The juice is already trickling down our fingers to our elbows. Part of the pulp is on the tip of our noses and cheeks, gloriously messy.

This is the last month that Ramesh will be growing mangoes; from next month onwards, he will sow groundnut seeds. Spurred on with this knowledge, we fill our bags with as many mangoes as we can before we return.

If you are interested in more such camps, contact Exoticamp at 9790000401 or log on to www.exoticamp.com


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Printable version | Oct 15, 2021 1:15:13 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/agriculture/hunting-down-the-last-batch-of-mangoes/article24262455.ece

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