The very sight of mangoes, whether tender, unripe or ripe can be a mouth-watering experience for many people.
According to folklore in some Asian countries, pregnant women crave for tender or unripe mangos in the early stages of pregnancy, and they eat mangoes raw. Well, I don’t know the reason why, as neither I have any direct experience, nor have I read any scientific reports on this strange behavior of Asian pregnant women or their special affinity to unripe sour mangoes. Possibly in countries outside Asia too, there can be such folklore, or real stories.
Mangos are the fruits of perennial flowering plants indigenous to the Indian subcontinent. They belong to the genus Mangifera consisting of about 69 species of tropical trees of the cashew family Anacardiaceae. While some Mangifera species grow only in their original local habitats, the Common Mango or the Indian mango (Mangifera indica) is the only mango tree that is cultivated in almost all tropical and subtropical regions of the world.
Mangos are also the oldest cultivated fruit trees in the world, since they were domesticated about 4000 years ago. They were introduced from India to East Asia in the fifth century BC. In the 15th century CE, mangoes were introduced to the Philippines. Then the Portuguese introduced Indian mango to their colonies in Africa and South America (including Brazil) in the 16th century. From these countries Mangifera indica gradually spread to other regions of the world where they are now naturalized as much as other indigenous plants.
The name mango is believed to have originated from the word ‘manga’ in Malayalam, which is the language of Kerala in India, where the first European traders-turned-colonizers from Portugal settled, after Vasco da Gama’s arrival at Calicut (Kozhikode) in 1498.
The picture here features a mango tree laden with unripe Tommy Atkins mangoes in the Ghosh Grove in Rockledge, Florida, USA. It is a hybrid mango variety developed from the Haden mango, one of the most widely cultivated, exported and consumed mango cultivar in the world since the early 20th century.
The Haden mango itself is a hybrid variety developed by crossing Mulgoba and Turpentine mangoes. It is named after Captain John J. Haden who, in 1902, planted Mulgoba mangoes in Coconut Grove, Florida, USA.
After its initial success as a very popular commercial mango cultivar, the Haden mango lost its popularity because of poor resistance to fungus infections and other problems. However, most of other hybrid mango cultivars subsequently developed in Florida were descendants of Haden mangoes.
Some of the popular mango varieties developed from the Haden include Becky, Fascell, Hatcher, Kent, Sensation, Cushman, Southern Blush, Jacquelin, Bailey’s Marvel, Zill, Spirit of ’76, Anderson, Irwin, and Tommy Atkins.
Tommy Atkins mangos currently dominate the international export trade in mangoes because of their easy transportability, higher yield potential, disease resistance, longer shelf life and appealing color of the fruits.
According to published data, about 80 percent of mangoes sold in supermarkets in the U.K. are Tommy Atkins. It is predominant in the United States as well, although other mango varieties such as Champagne, Kent, and Madame Francis are also commonly available.
Now Tommy Atkins mangoes are the most extensively cultivated export mangoes in the New World. For instance, see the photo of mangoes from tropical Brazil, which are from an agricultural farm in Petrolina (in Pernambuco), which produces approximately 146, 000 tons of different varieties of mangos per year (as of 2007).
Mango also has medicinal qualities. For instance, Mangiferin, a natural xanthone C-glycoside, extracted from Mango leaves, unripe mango skin and bark is a very powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic, and known for its anti-obesity and anticancer qualities. It is also known for health benefits such as its anti-diabetic, antifungal, antimicrobial and antiviral properties.