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As with all things good, mangoes make experts of us all.
Biting into the first delicious mango of the season, usually makes time stop. And while your tongue tries to fathom the sweet, mellow fruit that melts in your mouth, your brain plays out afternoons watching your grandmother pickle raw mango slices.
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You remember sitting at the Sunday lunch table, fidgeting till you get to dig into the mellow sunset smiles that are ripe mango slices, but you avoid taking the first slice because the juicy trickle winding all the way down to your elbow, will ruin the table cloth.
The first bites of the season's mango are a ticket to go back in time. The mango taps deep into our true selfish selves even with its fleeting seasonal presence.
Niceties aside we all try to grab the last mango slice from our siblings. We all have sneakily tipped extra mango pieces on our own servings of ice-cream before serving dessert to the rest of the party.
And as all things good, mangoes also make us all experts of sorts. With dozens of varieties to choose from, it is only natural that there is no "best" mango. However, as a true Goan I always vouch for the Malcurada.
This Goan mango makes the yummiest Mangada (mango jam- a simple process of stirring mango pulp, sugar and a twist of lime). This jam is divine.
The mangoes in Goa are heavy, succulent and droop low with their heavenly weight over the mud roads in the villages that dot the state.
The trees that grow in the blood red mud dangle their fruit over the equally red-tiled rooftops, a collage of green raw mangoes, waiting to turn golden and waiting to be plucked.
There is no urgent stone throwing to dislodge mangoes from the trees. In Goa, you can simply reach out and pluck them, especially if you know the owners. There is no rough housing when it comes to this king of fruits. You treat it with respect.
Like the sea breeze, the sumptuous cuisine and the sense of freedom included, in Goa you can choose your favourite mango from the several mind boggling varieties with enticing names such as the Becurada, Hilario, Afonso, Monsorate, Fernadina, Bispo, Bombi, Secretina, Dom Fillipe, Mirio, Costa, Bolo, Malguesa, Bispo etc.
The Afonso and the Malcurada are of course, the cream of the crop. These mangoes are so good, that back in the day the Portuguese used ‘mango diplomacy’ to win over the neighbouring kingdoms such as the Peshwas of Pune and even woo the Mughal court in Delhi.
Fatima da Silva Gracias in her book Cozinha de Goa mentions how Mango saguates (gifts) helped the Portuguese to keep diplomatic ties across the rest of the world. The fruit was even sent as far as Brazil.
From late April to June, the scent of mango fills every Goan home. The tender mangoes, tiny green with a chewy seed, are plucked still in their infancy, and pickled in brine, and kept sealed under a heavy stone to make Chepnim.
These tiny salty pressed mangoes are a great accompaniment to prawn pulao or even plain kanji.
The larger raw ones are chopped up, into small pieces and made into a spicy pickle, Miscut.
Raw mangoes are also added to curries for extra tang. You will often see raw mangoes sliced into tiny bits and set to dry in the sun, they turn ashy white, but retain their tart goodness, which is used all year round in curries.
The ripe fruit, of course, is eaten right away, or made into a preserve like the Mangada.
The fruit is beaten to a pulp, sugared, laid out to make fruit leather that can be eaten when the mango season is long over.
The mango, becomes a member of the family for part of the year. In ancestral Goan homes, one room was set aside for the fruit and needed lot of surveillance to keep the children from finishing all the mangoes.
For your summer trip, head to the local Goan markets or if you chance upon someone selling freshly plucked mangoes – get yourself a dozen, try all the varieties.
Oh yes! Ask for the Malcurada, that is my favourite. Did I already mention that? Blame it on the mango season.
The author is a journalist based in Delhi.
First Published: Apr 21, 2018 6:30 AM IST