This sweltering summer comes with its generous share of sweat, dust, heat and curses but the only motivation we have is digging into juicy and chilled mangoes during summer noons. Dasheri, Badami, Himsagar, Chaunsa and more of mango variants are a household name during this season every year but the one that has always been hailed as a king, is the majestic Alphonso!
The Alphonso mango, popularly known in Western India as ‘Hapus’, is a national obsession spreading its wings outside the borders too and there are no qualms about why is it best-loved. Non-fibrous, pulpy and saccharine are the keywords when we define our beloved hapus and we’ve plucked a new information from it’s histree! *Plucked-Mango tree-History, geddit? geddit? We’re punny sometimes*
The name of the fruit was christened after a Portuguese Viceroy known widely as Alfonso De Albuquerque, who was also a military genius of his time. He established the Portuguese colonies in India in the 15th century, starting with Goa and during his rule, he administered the ‘Colombian Food Exchange’. This was a practice which introduced new varieties of fruits and vegetables in our country, such as red chilies, maize, tomatoes and so on!
Back then Indians were familiar with a certain type of mango which were termed as the ‘sucking type’ and these variants could be squeezed out by hand and sucked out easily. As a part of this trade these mangoes were exported to Europe but the Viceroy wanted mangoes that were ‘firm’ and could be ‘cut and served’ rather than being squeezed out, in a messy way. This is when the Portuguese started grafting mango plants in Goa and they eventually came across a mango cultivar that pleased Alfonso and the palate of the country. Thus, our prized Alphonso mango was born in the laps of the Indian soil.
The grafting tactics and strategies of cultivating Alphonsos also extended towards the other Portuguese-controlled areas like Ratnagiri and Karwar. So it is popularly believed till date, that the Alphonsos from the Ratnagiri area in Maharashtra ranks as the best.
Today, Alphonso mangoes are still very popular and exported around the world and it was so well-cherished by the US that they struck an offbeat deal with India in 2007. In exchange of this top-notch variety of mango, they wanted to export Harley Davidson bikes to India but the American bike imports were not allowed into India due to its high emission norms.