It can be argued that the best part of summer is the barrage of mangoes that start to slowly make their way into the markets as the temperature rises. India has a staggering variety of mangoes, many of which are waiting to have their moment in the sun. Here are a few of the popular ones, as well as some not-so-well-known varieties that you need to know about.
Banganapalli comes from the Banganapalle region of Andhra Pradhesh. This mango is extremely handsome, with glowing yellow skin, and flesh that is juicy without being fibrous. Each mango, in its fully-grown state, weighs in at a little less than half a kilo and can be a meal by itself on a hot summer’s day. The best part about this fruit is that the skin is delicate and thin, and can be eaten along with the flesh. The freshness and sweetness of this mango makes it a great choice for a mango ice cream or sorbet.
This mild-flavoured mango is very easy to identify thanks to its distinct shape – elongated with a noticeable curve at the very tip, it almost looks like a teardrop. Found in the south Indian states of Karnataka, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh, it is also called Bangalora. The mild flavour of the Totapuri makes it an ideal choice for eating raw, with just a smattering of chilli powder and salt. For curries that call for raw mangoes, consider using Totapuri – it lends the floral flavour of raw mango without too much of the tartness.
With its origins in West Bengal, this mango has a fanatical following both in West Bengal and Bangladesh. It is now cultivated in parts of Orissa and Bihar as well. With a nectar-like sweetness, it is considered to be the poor man’s Alphonso. Green in colour, the flesh of the Himsagar is characterized by a distinct lack of fibre. The only catch is that the season is short – late May to early June is when these mangoes start flooding the market for a few weeks. The sweetness of Himsagar is best put to use in a no-bake mango cheesecake, where the cream cheese will cut down the sweetness of the mango.
Gir Kesar is predominantly grown in the foothills of the Girnar mountains of Gujarat. These mangoes can be identified by their bright orange flesh and an intensely fruity fragrance. Junagadh Nawab Babi Mahabat Khanji-III was responsible for naming this mango Kesar, which means ‘saffron’ in Hindi. One look at the bright flesh will explain why! Kesar is the only mango, besides Dasheri, that has a geographical indication tag - a certification afforded when certain products are associated with a specific location. Gir Kesar is often used to make aamras, a popular dish in Gujarat and Maharashtra served with pooris.
This favourite from North India is grown in Varanasi, UP. It is also popular in Bangladesh and Pakistan. The best way to identify a Langra is by its green skin, which doesn’t lighten even when ripe. Unlike the Alphonso and Banganapalli, the Langra is subtle in its sweetness. It is also a fibrous mango, so be sure to have a toothpick on hand! The Langra is at its best at the tail end of the mango season, making sure that the mango season ends on a sweet note. The subtle sweetness of Langra makes it a great choice for a mango lassi, where the flavours really shine through. However, be sure to strain the pulp, to get rid of the fibres.
The most characteristic feature of Neelam is that unlike most other mangoes, Neelam does not rot when exposed to the monsoons. It also starts to flood the market in June, when other varieties are petering out. Orange-skinned and with a heady floral fragrance, this mango is rather petite although big in flavour. Best used a dish where the fragrance is allowed to come through, Neelam is perfect in a fruit salad or even a mango milkshake with mint.
Badami can rival the best when it comes to sweetness. Golden yellow, with taut, shiny skin, it is easy to see why this mango has a fervent following in Karnataka. The juicy, sweet flesh makes it a great addition to a light starter where the flavour of the mango really shines through – like a mango salsa served with steamed fish or grilled chicken.