A delighted US Ambassador – Why not! [Image source]
It’s that time of the year when you hear that full-throated cries, “..sagar, himsagaa..r, himsagar liye jaan”, whenever you near any Kolkata market. Saliva forms in the mouth, which you draw sharply in even as you peer determinedly at the king of the fruits that virtually all fruit vendors display in their makeshift stalls.
Mango is a big business in Kolkata, especially Himsagar, and later Langra. To do a little number-crunching courtesy TT’s May 16 issue, Kolkata consumes over 10 lakh tonnes of mango daily from May to July. What’s more, the demand is rising every year.
Kolkata’s fare primarily includes the inevitable two, Himsagar and Langra, coming as they do from the mango orchards of Malda and Murshidabad. In between and after their turns are over, squeeze in the Banganapallis, the Alphonsos, the Dussehris, the Chanderis and those that come from other states.
There is often a dispute as to which mango is superior among the varieties above. If you ask me, having tasted all the varieties while I worked in different parts of India, my immediate answer will be the king of all, the mighty Himsagar, followed closely by Langra.
But, ‘prejudices’ apart, let’s see what the venerable Wikipedia has to say:
Langra and Himsagar are considered as the two most superior types of mangoes in India. Both of these varieties are produced in North India, especially in Uttar Pradesh state. But both of these varieties are not suitable for long preservation and thus not suitable for transport to long distances or export. The variety ‘Alphanso’, although taste-wise not as superior as langra and himsagar, but can be preserved longer. So this has become the mango that is generally used for export.
Dispute settled, let’s see what Wikipedia has to tell more on mangoes. Out of about 3.87 million hectares (UN FAO 2005 figure) of mango cultivation in the world, India commands an overwhelming 1.6 million hectares (41% of total), followed at the second place by China’s less than half million hectares.
No wonder, mango diplomacy is high on US’ business interests (see my story, Mangoes to US), and this year lot many varieties of mango have left shore for US, including the beloved Himsagar.
I asked a long-time local fruit vendor (who seems to be in the know of the things) as to what would happen to mango-lovers like us if everything goes to US. He smiled and assured me not to worry because the sahibs are very stringent in their selection.
They want bigger, fleshy things, uniform in size. Thank god they’re so choosy, else what chance would we’ve got to lay hands on the heavenly fruit!