Wild Mango Magic

Next time you grumble about the heat, humidity and horridness of summer – stop and look at the mangoes! All the woes of summer disappear as the sweet mango juice goes dripping down your chin. I wouldnt miss it for the world (and my sympathies to those who cant or dont have a mango season!)

This year, we have had a fantastic season. And thankfully, mangoes still are a seasonal fruit – like spargel/ asparagus, in Europe. We’ve had a mix of hybird mangos from Kalahandi, mangoes from our garden, and of course, mangoes from the villages and forests around Bissamcuttack. The adivasi village streets are paved with gold this season. Whole populations disappear into the forest before sunrise to collect mangoes – the small, wild, sweetest kind. That doesnt make it’s way into markets beyond the block or tehsil headquarters. This season, I was blessed with wild mangoes.

Preserving this sweetness is vital of course. ‘Manga Thera’ finds its place in most communities on the sub-continent. Here, in south Odisha, it’s called Ambo Soda and modern innovations are creeping in – like drying the pulp on plastic mats or plastic sacks. The rest of the process is essentially the same – squeezing and pounding the sweetness out of the mangoes into a pulpy juice, slathering it out to dry, once dry, pouring on a new layer of fresh pulp and so on till the sun has turned the pulp into a solid mass of gold.

Here are some pictures from J village, where we tried our hands at pulping with a split bamboo stick and tin can.

This season I finally learned how to make sweet mango curry. The tree behind our house has been dropping mangoes for nearly a month now and yesterday we ate the last batch from this tree. Many blessings on those who planted it, and indeed on all those who plant and tend mango trees.

The Sweet Mango Curry Recipe (easy version by D didi):

1. Wash and peel ripe ‘chusne’ mangos (little mangos that you have to suck the juice out of and not the fancy hybrid kind that only lend themselves to slicing up). Atleast 2 mangoes per head

mango curry2. Chop a couple of onions, 3-5 cloves of garlic and a few red chillies (depending on how spicy you want it. The spicey-ness compliments the sweetness of the mangoes!)

mango curry 23. Heat your pan/ kadai/ wok and pour in a tablespoon of oil (coconut, sunflower, sesame. Mustard if youre feeling brave. Any oil will do the trick). Add a teaspoon of mustard or jeera seeds into the hot oil and enjoy the sizzle and splatter.  A few curry leaves too if you have them fresh from the garden.

4. Add in the chopped ingredients of step 2 and fry well. Sprinkle in some salt (to taste. We cook a hypertensive diet, so not much gets added. Fortunately, salt can be added in later as well!). The mangoes are already golden, but a dash of tumeric/ manjal/ haldi powder really brings out the sunshiny yellow.

mango curry35. When the onions are brown and tender, add the mangoes. Wash out the bowl with a little splash of water and pour that in, so you don’t waste any of the mango juice. Don’t add too much water now because a lot of liquid comes of out the mango anyway!

mango curry56. Turn down the heat, cover and leave on simmer for 7-10 minutes. Soon the mangoes will be cooking in a bubbling golden gravy of thick mango juices. Now add a little more water if you like lots of gravy. Serve with hot white rice.mango curry7So quick, try it before the mango season ends this year! Or since patience is a virtue, you could wait for the mango season to roll round again next year. Either ways, here’s to Mango Magic – may you stay sweet and seasonal!

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