We are on the cusp of one of my most favourite times of year – Mango season. Plump, sweet, juicy and yellow – it is impossible to feel sad or depressed when you eat a mango in mango season. Any food that is dripping down your chin and running down your elbows has to be good. Perhaps it’s also the heat and humidity that accompanies mango season that makes cold chilled cubes of mango or fleshy cheeks sliced off the seed, all the more ravishing. Our second year here on Dolphin Hill and both mango trees in our garden have produced big bright green mangoes. Can’t wait to pluck them but we must wait for the right time. Then I was warned about the story of Lakshmi amma and the jackfruit…
The yellow mango does not ripen on the tree. You have to pluck them at the “right time” (just when that is is still a mystery that I am deeply worried about) and let them ripen indoors preferably on a bed of straw somewhere dark. But that’s if the monkeys, crows and your gardener hasn’t got to them first. We don’t have monkeys here on Dolphin Hill – I don’t think they like the sea… In fact, I haven’t seen any monkeys in Vizag, surprisingly.
So while I don’t have the monkey problem like most places in India, I do have the problem of when to pluck them. The idea is for them to get as much nutrients and sugars from the tree as possible and you pluck them just before the sugars get too concentrated and the fruit begins to rot on the tree. But then there’s the story of Lakshmi amma who used to cook and clean and generally look after my husband and his sister (my neighbours) when we were little. They had a jackfruit tree in the back garden and it seemed to produce only one jackfruit. Most years, this large green spiny fruit who played host to tens of pale yellow and golden fleshy capsules inside it never came to…fruition? But one year as the jackfruit got bigger and bigger Lakshmi amma got more and more excited and more and more paranoid that someone would cast the evil eye on her jackfruit. She was determined that this jackfruit would be hers. So she built an evil impenetrable looking bushy crown of thorns around the jackfruit to prevent the pesky monkeys, crows and passersby from even setting eyes on her jackfruit. The very next day, someone stole the jackfruit. Maybe good things don’t always come to those who wait.Here’s a picture of some jackfruit for those of you who’ve not seen the fruit before:
At the charming little Fort House Hotel in Cochin (which you must stay at for a splurge) I had a surprising chilli mango salad. Thick firm cubes of mango, sprinkled with chilli powder and finely chopped red onion. Sounds odd, I know but the contrast of the sweet mango and the chilli powder pops in the mouth. I was recently gifted a book on Goan cooking and in it is a recipe for Mango Sassav (don’t know what Sassav means). You lightly squeeze a skinned ripe mango to collect some juice. Then dry roast 1 tbsps of mustard seeds till they splutter (no oil), then cool and grind them. Add the mustard powder to 1 tsp chilli powder and 1/2 tsp salt and a tbsp of coarsely ground up jaggery (palm sugar) and all to the mangoes. Sprinkle this with grated coconut on the the mangoes (still on the seed) and the juice and serve cold. It says to eat with rice or chapatti which I find odd. I think it would make a nice salad. I find the mango still on the seed slightly odd as well. But it’s an interesting recipe. This is from a book called “A Taste of Goa” whose inscription by Goa’s Poet Laureate, Bakibab Borkar reads,
” Please Sir, Mr.God of Death
Don’t make it my turn today,
there’s fish curry for dinner”
Everybody has their favourite mango – most people worship the mapoos or alphonso their English name. That’s the one that gets exported. I never ate/bought mangoes from the supermarkets in England because you could pretty much get mangoes any time of year. That’s no fun. You gotta eat seasonal food, in that season. Our favourite is the Banganapalli. Our fruit guy says, “Not yet ready, madam.” So I will take his expert advice and hang on till the Banganapallis arrive. Till then my quandary of when to pluck and store these mangoes continues. I keep waiting and waiting, hopefully not with the same results as Lakshmi amma..