Mangoes are one of the ancient fruits found in India and are believed to have originated in areas around the Indian subcontinent and South Asia. Therefore it is not surprising that India produces more than 50 percent of the world’s mangoes with an annual output of more than 20 million tonnes. Mangoes come in various shapes, sizes, colors, aromas, and most importantly in different flavors and tastes.
Many Indian regions are famous for specific varieties of mangoes and there are hundreds of varieties of mangoes that grow in India. Some of the mango varieties have gained massive popularity. These include Alphonso and Ratnagiri in Maharashtra, Banganapalli in Andhra, Badami, and Raspuri in Karnataka, Kesar in Gujarat, and Chausa, Dasheri, and Langra in Uttar Pradesh, Totapuri, Neelam, and Mallika among many others.
During my recent visit to a mango orchard in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, I got a chance to meet and interact with the owner of the orchard and a few of the fruit sellers in the vicinity. They shared some interesting facts about mango trees with which I was not familiar. Uttar Pradesh apart from producing some delicious mangoes is also India’s biggest mango-producing state.
While whichever variety of mangoes you love and in whatever form you eat (raw fruits, pickles, smoothie, chutney, etc), here are some interesting attributes of mangoes and mango trees.
Mango Trees basics
Mango trees grow readily from seeds obtained from mature fruits. The tree can grow fairly quickly and often reaches 50 to 60 feet in height. The leaves of the tree are evergreen and change color as the tree matures – orange-pink when the leaves are young, changing to a dark, glossy red, then dark green as they grow.
The tree starts its flowering in winter and takes about four to five months for the fruits to ripen. The pollination is mostly done by insects and only about 1% of flowers go on to become fruits.
The alternate bearing of Mango Trees
Mango trees start flowering when they are 6-7 years old and yield fruit for over 50 years. However, most mango trees take breaks i.e. they follow a process called alternate bearing.
Alternate bearing or biennial bearing is a common phenomenon in many fruit tree species where they produce more fruits in one year (“ON” year) and much lower in the following year (“OFF” year). This process is common in fruits like pears, olives, apples, and plums among others.
Plucking Mango fruits can be dangerous
Mangoes are delicate, every fruit must be plucked by hand so that it doesn’t fall to the ground and get crushed. However, when the ripe mango fruit is plucked from the Mango tree, the broken stem exudes sap. The sap is highly acidic and contains an oily compound called urushiol which can cause itching and a stinging sensation if touched directly.
The same sap can also damage the mango fruit if allowed to ooze and remain on its skin. The mango farmers prevent this by arranging the harvested mangoes on a wooden crate with holes with the stem facing down. So the sap drips onto the ground without touching the mango skin.
Health benefits of Mangoes
Mangoes are often referred to as the king of fruits, the reason lies not only because of their taste but also because mangoes are a powerhouse of health benefits.
The luscious fruits are a rich source of vitamin C and vitamin A which play a major role in strengthening immunity. Mangoes are a good source of dietary fiber and antioxidants that helps in the prevention of heart disease, cancer, and cholesterol build-up.
Peculiar Mango Leaves
The leaves from Mango Trees have properties that can treat skin disorders, manage diabetes and help with hair problems. The leaves of Mango trees are also consumed by making tea through leaf infusion.
In addition, the dried bark of the Mango tree if consumed in the form of powder cures Diarrhoea.
However, burning Mango leaves in the woods is not advisable as they are toxic in nature and can infect Human eyes and lungs severely. Moreover, mango leaves are considered toxic for cattle feed as well.
Wood from Trees is sustainable
The wood from mango trees comes with dense grains, which means it has the strength to bear the weight necessary for chairs and heavy tables. At the same time, the mango wood is one of the softest hardwoods making it suitable for furniture making.
Unlike Oak and Teak, which are only grown for furniture purposes, mango wood is a byproduct of food agriculture. Mango trees give delicious fruits in their lifetime and once the tree stops bearing fruits, the tree can be chopped off to use for furniture. This also provides farmers with an additional source of income.
Mango Trees help in Carbon Capture
New studies have emerged that suggest mango orchards can help mitigate climate change. Compared to the other fruit trees like apple, citrus, guava, papaya, sapota, ber, fig, mango sequesters maximum carbon.
In one of the studies conducted by the Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR) and Indian Institute Horticultural Research (IIHR), it is discovered that India being the largest mango producer is also the largest carbon-absorbing nation from mango orchards globally.
While we should not replace natural forest land with Mango trees, however, Mango Trees should be promoted as they provide food, nutritional benefits, wood, and green cover, and also helps in bringing down greenhouses emission.
Will you increase your mango intake?