Mango and Brief History,Folklore and Legend.
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Mango and Brief History,Folklore and Legend.
The mango originated in Southeast Asia where it has been grown for over 4,000 years. Over the years mango groves have spread to many parts of the tropical and sub-tropical world, where the climate allows the mango to grow best. Mango trees are evergreens that will grow to 60 feet tall. The mango tree will fruit 4 to 6 years after planting. Mango trees require hot, dry periods to set and produce a good crop. Most of the mangos sold in the United States are imported from Mexico, Haiti, the Caribbean and South America. Today there are over 1,000 different varieties of mangos throughout the world.
The earliest mention of mango, Mangifera indica, that means "the great fruit bearer," is in the Hindu scripture dating back to 4000 BCE. The wild mango originated in the foothills of the Himalayas of India and Burma, and about 40 to 60 of these trees still grow in India and Southeast Asia. However, with its tiny fruits, fibrous texture, and unpleasant turpentine taste, there is little resemblance to the superlative mango we have come to enjoy today.
So passionate are modern day Asian Indians about their most adored fruit, the cultivated mango, that during mango season in India, families actually argue heatedly about which of the many varieties is best for their favorite mango dishes. For the rest of us, we're just delighted to welcome mango season, enjoy the luscious tangy fruit that dribbles down our chins, and leave the fisticuffs out of it!
As the mango became cultivated, as early as 2000 BCE, its flavor, size, and texture developed into the exotic, richly flavored succulent treat we look forward to each May through September.
The explorers who tasted the mango were enchanted with its aromatic qualities, ambrosial flavor, and creamy, smooth, and silky texture and introduced the fruit to other tropical countries, such as, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines where it has had successful cultivation. As the mango adapted to new locales, new varieties evolved and many names were bestowed upon it such as "apple of the tropics, king of fruits, and fruit of the Gods".
Chinese traveler Hwen T'sang visited India in the first half of the seventh century AD and took the mango back to his home. The Chinese were delighted and began cultivating the magnificent evergreen tree that stands up to 100 feet tall with beautiful, thick, shiny, leathery pointed leaves that grow 8 to 14 inches long. Symmetrical in shape, the mango tree is a beautiful ornamental that is also appreciated for its cooling shade.
Mangoes continued to curry favor everywhere they were cultivated on their journey westward. The seventh century caliphs of Baghdad enjoyed their mangoes in the form of a complex brew that that required six months to a year to fully ferment. The traveling mango then hitched a camel ride from Persia and caravaned to the African continent about the year1,000.
Mangoes were first recorded in Europe by Friar Jordanus in 1328, but Europeans didn't fall in love with them as did countries with tropical climates. Although mangoes are the world's third largest food crop today, they still remain obscure in Europe.
By the sixteenth century the mango had become so revered in India that royalty hoarded the groves solely for the rajas and nawabs. During this same century Portuguese explorers carried the mango to East and West Africa and Brazil. By the eighteenth century the West Indies had met the engaging mango. Today, India's main fruit crop is still the mango that outnumbers all the country's other fruit crops. In fact, India is the world's largest mango producer. In Tamil, the language of Southeastern India, the mango received its original name "mancay or mangay" that later evolved into manga by the Portuguese.
Hawaii, Florida, and Mexico were next on the nineteenth century travel plans for this tropical wonder. Though Florida was growing mangoes on the East Coast in 1825, it wasn't until 1889 that the USDA introduced a special grafted variety from India called Mulgoa or Mulgoba. The Haden variety, developed from the original Mulgoba, has been described as "rich, sweet and spicy, with flesh of melting texture and free of objectionable fibers."
Mangoes lend their tangy sweet flesh to many inventive dishes, especially in Indian and Southeast Asian cuisine. During times of famine in India, even the mango seed was eaten after lengthy boiling. In India mangoes are dried, ground into a powder, and used in amchur, a condiment similar to chutney. Jamaicans also dry their mangoes to make a spicy condiment similar to chutney.
India may have been the original inventor of sweet and chewy fruit leathers, which, centuries ago, they began making from ripe mangoes. They're also noted for their mango pickle that can be quite fiery hot and spicy. Indian restaurants today typically feature a beverage called Lassi made with mango, yogurt, sugar, ice and a touch of ground cardamom.
Mango chutney, an Indian condiment made from green mango, brown sugar, vinegar, hot peppers, and ginger is probably the most well known dish that employs the mango.
In their unripe form, mangoes are just as appealing as when fully ripe. Throughout Southeast Asia, green mango salads are common and take on a variety of seasonings that incorporate lime juice, chiles, and rice vinegar. In the Philippines unripe mangoes are enjoyed as a between-meal snack sprinkled with salt or dipped into soy sauce.
In Guadalupe, a city in the central region of Mexico, mangoes are chopped, salted and sprinkled with a little oil and served as a refreshing appetizer.
You may be surprised to note that mangoes are in the sumac family, Anacardiaceae, the same family as pistachios cashews, poison oak and poison ivy.
Folklore and Legend:
India is a country rich with folklore that sometimes becomes woven into cultural rituals as well as religious ceremonies. On holy days, Hindus brush their teeth with mango twigs.
It is said that the Buddha was given the gift of a whole grove of mango trees where he could rest whenever he wished. From that time on the mango tree was held in awe as capable of granting wishes.
So revered is the mango tree in its home country that it has become a symbol of love. Offerings of mango leaves are presented at wedding ceremonies, a ritual that guarantees the couple will bear many children. In the villages there is a powerful belief that the mango trees grow new leaves each time a son is born. To herald the new birth to their neighbors, doorways are decorated with mango leaves.
Old Sanskrit writings reveal a legend of deep love and beauty that sprang from the mango tree. It was the daughter of the sun, Surya Bai, who transformed herself into a golden lotus to evade persecution of an evil sorceress. The sorceress became angry when the King of the land fell in love with the beautiful lotus, and she burnt it to ashes. Good overcame evil when a magnificent mango tree sprang from the ashes and Surya Bai stepped out from a ripe mango that had fallen to the ground. The King instantly recognized her as his long lost wife, and the two rejoiced.
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