A mango is a mango is a mango you might think, but this is not so. There are more than 500 types of mango and there may even be more than a thousand. Living in Pakistan I realize the truth in this. If you’ve never walked in a busy street, sucking the juice out of a small ripe mango, believe me, it’s quite a refreshing experience. You roll the small fruit between your hands to make the pulp soft, make a little hole in the top of the mango and suck out the juice. The alternative is to buy freshly squeezed mango juice from one of the many juice kiosks that line shopping streets. Then you may get a plastic cup or be given the juice in a plastic bag, with a straw. But it’s satisfying to suck the juice out of the fruit and then eat the pulp left on the stone.

Mangoes are native to India, Bangladesh and Myanmar, although there are mango groves all over south Asia now. Cultivation of the mango tree began amore than 4000 years ago, and as you can imagine with such a history, they are very much part of the culture. It’s monsoon time now and the mango has come into its own. In India it’s known as the King of Fruits, and is the national fruit of that country.

Buddhist monks took plants to Malaya and East Asia in the 5th and 4th centuries BC, and Persian traders took it to the Middle East and East Africa sometime before the first millennia (AD). When the Portuguese explorers reached the subcontinent in the 15th century, they introduced it into South America, the Philippines and West Africa.

The mango is associated with Hinduism and Buddhism. It is said that Buddha converted many people miraculously when he metamorphosed into various forms in front of a mango tree. This tale is told in the Jataka Tales, and Buddha is often portrayed with a mango tree in works of art. It is said that he liked to meditate in mango groves. He is also said to have caused a mango tree to sprout from a seed instantaneously to convince unbelievers that he was the Buddha.

In Hinduism, Shiva is said to have appeared in his Lingua (phallic) form under a mango tree, and where the manifestations occurred Hindu temples were built. Now many Hindus hang the leaves from the mango tree in their homes for good fortune to smile on them. In Hindu rituals of divine blessing, a clay pot is filled with water, with the pot symbolizing Mother Earth and water the life-giving force. The top is decorated with fresh mango leaves, representing vibrant life and a coconut, symbolizing divine consciousness. The whole entity is a symbol of Lakshmi, the goddess of fortune.

In art on the whole subcontinent, pictures of paradise almost always contain the mango tree because it provides both shade and the wonderful fruit. The mango represents love and fertility.

In the 18th and 19th century cows were fed solely on mango leaves so that their excretions could provide a yellow dye called “Indian yellow”, but this practice was banned in the 1920s as it was deemed cruel to feed cows solely on mango leaves. However the tree bark is still used as a dye, which is light yellow. The stems of the trees are beaten and the juice is collected from them is mixed with turmeric and lime to make a rose-pink dye for cotton. The wood from the tree is treated with preservatives (salt water in some cases) and used to build boats and for furniture. The flowers are very fragrant and their oil is used in perfumes. Gum from the trees is tapped and used instead of gum Arabic, so it has many uses apart from its medicinal and culinary ones.

Of course mango trees and the fruit have their role to play in traditional remedies. In Ayurvedic medicine the flowers are dried and used to cure dysentery, diarrheoa and inflammation of the urinary tract. It is believed that mangoes can strengthen the nervous system and the blood system, so can treat anaemia effectively. They also help to rid the body of toxins. In folk medicine they are used in the treatment of rheumatism and diphtheria. The bark is known to have astringent qualities. The gum from the tree trunk is put on cracked soles of the feet and is also used to treat scabies. Powdered seeds help stop bleeding, and it is believed that mangoes cure headaches an dare good for the kidneys. Western medical research tends to bear out all these properties, and it is said that eating mangoes can prevent colon cancer. The fruits contain a compound called mangiferin, which promotes heart action and production of urine. They also contain gallic acid and quercetene which protect against viruses. The powdered seeds have antimicrobial properties, and it has a whole host of other benefits.
Peeled, sliced and dried mangoes are ground into a powder which is the spice amchur. This gives dishes an added tartness, and it can be used effectively in curry sauces lentil dishes, and anything that needs an extra tart addition.

You can eat green mangoes raw, and they are good cooked and pickled too. In fact, the mango is a miraculous fruit: no wonder it was so loved by Buddha.



1 kg green mangoes washed well, dried well then cut into quarters, stones discarded
150 gr salt
3 tsps fenugreek seeds

6 tsp anise
15 gr black seeds (Kalvanji, Kalonji, Nigella sativa)
7 gr turmeric
2½ cups mustard oil

Rub all the ground spices, salt and turmeric onto the cut mango pieces, with about 12 tsps of the oil.

Put these in a jar in the sun and leave for 2 days, making sure to shake the jar every day.

Pour in the remaining oil and leave for two weeks in the house, not in the sun.

Remember to shake the jar on alternate days.

You can eat it after 20 days but it can be kept for about 2 years - if it isn’t eaten by then.

Keep the pieces of mango covered with oil.

Don’t throw the oil away when the pickle is finished; use it for the next batch of mango pickle.

This has Taste and is a Treat.

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