The common mango, botanically known as the Mangifera indica, is reported to have originated as alloploid and its native home is suggested as Eastern India, Assam to Burma or possibly further in the Malay region. According to some experts, the centre of origin of mango is also suggested to be the Indo-Burma region. The introduction of superior varieties of mango into the Malay region from India is also an evidence of its origin in India. Based on detailed study of the history, fossil records, and evidence of numerous wild and cultivated varieties in India, experts considered origin of genus Mangifera probably in Burma, Siam, Indo-China and the Malay Peninsula, but the birth of common mango was in the Assam-Burma region and not in Malay.
There is ample evidence to prove that people have been cultivating mango for over 4,000 years and has found a significant place in Hindu mythology as well as religious ceremonies. Today, the mango is a well-known fruit in all areas of the tropic zones, and is as significant there as the apple is in temperate climates.
The mango trees belong to the sumac family. In fact, there are hundreds of assortments of mangos, and they can range from the size of plums to that of apples, frequently weighing a pound or more. The familiar color of the mango is orange, although the color of the fruit may vary from green, yellow or red. The genus Mangifera belongs to the Sapindales order in the Anacardiaceae family that mainly includes tropical species with 73 genera with a few representatives in temperate regions. In addition to being an edible fruit, the Anacardiaceous species also yield other valuable products like gums and resins, wood, wax, tanning materials, and varnishes. This family of trees is also known for the dermal irritation produced by some of its members, including some Mangifera spp. whose resinous liquids may bring on allergic reaction.
The mango trees are normally found to be medium to large ranging from 10 to 40 feet in height. The trees are evergreen with proportioned, rounded canopy varying from low and dense to upright and open. The bark of the mango trees is usually dark grey-brown to black, somewhat smooth, seemingly cracked or discreetly fissured, peeling off in irregular, rather thick pieces. The bark contains 78 per cent resin and 15 per cent gum in addition to tannic acid. The tree has small terminal buds that are enclosed by small acute bud scales. The twigs are not very thick, but smooth, angular, glabrous, dark green and glossy.
The mango fruit is obtainable between May and September with June witnessing the maximum supply of this delicious variety of tropical crop. The mango varies significantly in size, shape, color, fiber presence, flavor, taste and several other characters. The most characteristic feature of the mango fruit is the formation of a small conical protrusion developing laterally at the proximal end of the fruit, known as the beak. It may be quite prominent in some, lesser in others, while in some varieties a mere dot represents it. All good quality mangoes have a rather small seed stone and the pulp of the fruit is delicate as well as smooth. While selecting the best quality of mango one must ensure that the fruit is fresh, plump and firm to touch. However, the real test of the fruit is in its flavor.
The best way to consume mangoes is to eat them fresh. The fruits are rich in sugar content, and have a slightly acidic taste. The fruits also possess an acrid juice, with turpentine like smell owing to the presence of chemical substances known as myrcene and ocimene. Mangoes can be eaten directly or mixed with other fruits to prepare mouth-watering salads. Interestingly, in some parts of the world people eat the fruit after roasting it over fire. The fragrance as well as the taste of the fruit is both spicy as well as attractive. In order to preserve the aroma of mangoes, cut them immediately before serving.
In addition to being a delicious fruit, mangoes possess several therapeutic properties. While the gallic acid present in substantial quantity in the fruit has been reported to be a requisite to the bowels, mangoes are also act as an antiseptic to the body disinfecting it of all microbes. Advocators of use of mangoes as a remedial substance, claim that the fruit is excellent for cleansing the blood and also possesses qualities that are effectual in soothing fever. In addition, it has been proved that mango juice is helpful in getting rid of unnecessary body heat. They are also useful in discarding the bad body odors.
In general, mangoes also form an exceptional source of nourishment as they have rich contents of both fiber and carbohydrates. At the same time, mangoes possess high levels of varied, but necessary vitamins and minerals that are beneficial for healthy living.
According to the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI), 165 grams of mango serving contains antioxidants vitamin A (25 per cent), vitamin C (76 per cent) and vitamin E (9 per cent). In addition, it comprises vitamin B6 or pyridoxine (11 per cent DRI), vitamin K (9 per cent DRI), high levels of additional B vitamins and crucial nourishments like potassium, copper and 17 amino acids. According to scientific researchers, mango peel and pulp enclose additional phytonutrients like carotenoids, polyphenols and omega-3 and omega- 6 polyunsaturated fatty acids. Moreover, the edible mango peel, which is normally discarded while eating the fruit pulp, too is rich in antioxidants. According to researchers, if consumed, the mango peel may prove to be an effective antioxidant food resource.
Antioxidants present in the mango peel and pulp include several carotenoids and polyphenols, including quercetin, kaempferol, gallic acid, caffeic acid, catechins, tannins and the exclusive mango xanthone and mangiferin – either of which is effectual in neutralizing the free radicals found in various disease mechanisms. While this has been proved during some groundwork studies on the subject, researchers have so far been able to segregate 25 different types of carotenoids from the mango pulp. Among these 25 varieties of carotenoids, beta-carotene was found to be having the maximum concentration and it was responsible for imparting the yellow color to most species of the mature fruit.
During laboratory tests it was found that triterpene, lupeol, present in the mango acted as an excellent restrainer of cancers of the prostate and skin. A group of Cuban scientist has extracted Vimang from the branch bark of mango trees and this substance is said to comprise various polyphenols having antioxidant properties that are effective in vitro and on elderly persons’ blood limitations. Interestingly, in the same plant family as poisonous sumac, the mango’s peel contains substance called urushiol. Urushiol often results in itching of the skin, skin rashes called urushiol-stimulated contact dermatitis or even allergies of the skin.
Before handling the mango fruit, it is essential to always wash the mangoes to get rid of any kind of liquid remains on the fruit. It has been found that some mangoes contain excessive fiber and cannot be sliced. Hence the best way to consume them is to massage the fruits, cut off the stem end and drink the juice by squeezing it into the mouth. However, mangoes that do not contain too much fiber may be easily cut along the seed stone and then free the stone by twisting the two halves in diverse directions.
There are multifarious ways to eat mangoes, but generally people prefer eating the remaining flesh from the seed and they can savor this delicacy by penetrating the stem end of the fruit with a long central spike of a mango fork and hold the fruit upright similar to a lollypop. Such special types of mango forks are usually available in Mexico. The fork is also useful while eating small pieces of the mango flesh. You just need to cut the mango flesh in small pieces and then mount them on the fork to eat them. On the other hand, if you find that the fruit is somewhat fibrous, it is best to peel the mango, slice the flesh into small pieces and serve them as dessert. Such small pieces of mango may also be consumed as salads along with other fruits, added to dry cereals like muesli or cornflakes, put into gelatin or custards or topped on ice creams. If you desire, you may also spice the ripened flesh and preserve it in jars for later consumption. In many countries where the harvest of mango is substantial, the surplus fruit is peeled, sliced and then preserved in cans as jams, syrups, jelly, marmalade or nectar.
The uses of mango are endless. For instance, mango halva and mango leather are prepared from the pulpy juice extracted from the more fibrous variety of the fruit. To make these items tastier, people often blend the mango halva and mango leather with tamarind seed jellose and also corn flour. In addition, mango juice is also used in infant and insignificant food. For this, fine mango juice is sprayed and dried into powder form and added to these foods. The dried mango juice is also mixed with wheat flour to prepare ‘cereal’ flakes. In India, manufacturers have developed a dried mango custard powder for use as baby food. Again, dried mango juice is often reconstituted and consumed as a beverage.
There are several ways to savor this delicious tropical fruit even when it is not the season. One may freeze the ripened mangoes as a whole or after peeling and slicing it. If the fruit is peeled and sliced, it is best to add some sugar – one part of sugar for every 10 part of mango – before keeping it for freezing. This will add to the taste when the fruit is savored later. On the other hand, chopped flesh of the fruit may be immersed in sweetened or unsweetened lime juice with a view to avoid discoloration or staining and left to freeze for later consumption. One may also prepare a puree by smashing ripened or green mangoes. Often when green or half ripened mangoes are brought down by the strong spring gales, they may be peeled and sliced for stuffing pie, preparing jelly and sauce. If added with milk and egg whites they can be used for preparing sherbet – a sort of oriental fruit beverage. If you are a chutney aficionado, you may peel, slice and moderately boil the green or raw mangoes and then blend it with sugar, salt, raisins, some spices and even other fruits to prepare the delicacy. Once the chutney is ready, it can be salted and dried in the sun and used later as pickles. Similarly, slender carvings of mango can be seasoned with turmeric and then dried and powdered to add a tart taste to chutneys, different vegetables and even soups.
‘Keo’, a green-skinned variety of mangoes found in Thailand have fiber-less flesh and are said to be very sweet to taste. This variety of mango is commonly cultivated in Thailand and is also very inexpensive. The best way to relish ‘keo’ is to soak them wholly in salted water for about 15 days. Before serving ‘keo’, they need to be peeled, sliced and blended with sugar.
On the other hand, mango processing with the aim of export is of immense importance in Hawaii. This is primarily owing to the fact that there are several limitations regarding the export of fresh fruits. Fruit processing is very advanced in that country and Hawaiian technocrats have invented and developed various systems to enhance the fruit processing. For instance, they have built up systems for steam-and-lye peeling as well as mechanisms to remove the peel from unpeeled fruits to prepare nectar. However, it is important to choose the right variety of mango for processing for special objectives.
Chemical analysis of the fresh core of the mango seed also known as the seed stone comprises 13 per cent of the fruit’s total weight and around 55 to 65 per cent of the seed’s weight. In fact, the kernel or the mango seed core is a significant spin-off of the mango processing industry. It is edible and has various utilities. For instance, the mango seeds are dried and stored in India for use as meals during acute food crisis. The poor masses, which unable to obtain food during the scarcity patches, thrive on the mango kernels. They eat them either after roasting or boiling them in water. First, the kernels are soaked in water to get rid of the astringency or the tannins and then left to dry in the sun. Once they are dry, the kernels are pounded into powder and blended with wheat or rice flour to prepare hand-made breads. In addition, powdered kernels are also added in puddings for volume.
The mango seed kernel contains substantial amount of edible fat, which is extracted and used for several purposes. This fat is solid and white in color much akin to the cocoa butter and has been recommended for use as a substitute of cocoa butter in chocolates. On the other hand, an analysis of the mango peel has been found to comprise 20 to 25 per cent of the total weight of the fruit. Significantly, some Indian researchers have established that the mango peel can be made use of as an important source of pectin. According to them, on an average, dried mango peel constitutes 13 per cent of pectin.
It may be surprising to note that a section of the masses in Indonesia and the Philippines cook and eat young, immature mango leaves!
Habitat and cultivation
The mango trees require enough sunlight and ideal air and draining during the winter. The trees thrive best at the top or middle of any sloped terrain as this helps in obtaining adequate sunlight and also setting up a better drainage system. The mango trees grow to substantial heights – varying between 10 and 40 feet. The trees are symmetrical, well branched and form a good canopy. Unlike in many trees, the roots of mango trees are not disparaging. It is essential to provide a wind break in the uncovered areas of the trees that may also require staking or palisade. If you are cultivating mango trees in the deserts or arid lands, ensure that they have the shade of other trees. Alternatively, you may plant them in the northern side of your house. On the contrary, if you are cultivating mango trees in a garden or near the coastlines, plant the trees alongside a wall on the southern side or in an area that is bounded by paving. This will provide the tree with maximum heat. And if the mango tree is being planted in any greenhouse, ensure complete light and also free movement of air. This will help the plant in keeping away from diseases.
Mango trees have the special quality to grow and thrive in roughly about any kind of soil that is well drained. The trees grow well in sandy, clay as well as loam, but it is advisable to keep away from heavy and wet soils. The best soil for cultivating mango trees is a pH ranging between 5.5 and 7.5 as the trees can endure alkalinity to some extent. For better growth, the mango trees require deep soil so that they can accommodate their widespread root systems.
Mango trees require irrigation, particularly when they are now being cultivated in the tropical zones, and it is essential to start irrigating the plants when the climatic conditions get heated. For instance, the best timings for irrigating the mango trees are: February in the deserts and April in the coastal areas. Irrigation needs to be continued every one to two weeks and more often in light soils that are unable to retain moisture. On the other hand, irrigation must be done incessantly in the desert regions till the fruits are harvested. However, irrigation may be suspended in case of rains or when there is adequate moisture in the soil. If the mango trees are being grown in greenhouses, irrigation must be carried on till the harvesting of the fruits. Once the harvesting is over in the greenhouses, one needs to maintain minimum irrigation with a view to prevent withering of the trees. Then after a month or two, watering of the trees may be augmented to facilitate new budding and the growth cycle.
One must treat the mango trees frequently with nitrogen fertilizers in order to ensure their healthy and glowing growth as well as proper flowering. In addition to nitrogen fertilizers, mango trees also require iron for development. While you may chalk out a feeding program comparable to that used for the citrus plants, but it would be detrimental to use fertilizers after the middle of summer. As mango trees are focused to fertilizer burn, using organic fertilizers or compost/ manure will deliver maximum yields. Here is a word of caution. Remember that the young mango trees are especially susceptible to excessive fertilization. However, these trees best act in response to fish suspensions. Another important aspect that needs to be kept in mind is that mango trees planted on sandy soil need more fertilization than those growing on clay or loam.
Some pruning is required from time to time to keep the mango trees healthy. Moreover, if you prune the trees for stimulating new branch growth it will support consistent fruit yields every year. In addition, if you do away with some of the flower bunches when the blooming is particularly heavy, it will help in easing the yields every second season. Some people also prune mango trees during late winter and also in late springs with a view to maintain their size. The timing of such pruning is of great importance as it does not affect any loss of fruit.
Cultivating mango trees in relatively cold climes require frost protection. Throughout the first two years of cultivation, it is essential to provide the young mango trees protection like overhead cover up during any frost hazard. When the trees are three to four feet high, it often becomes hard to provide overhead coverings to them, but it is still sensible to do so especially when there is any warning about an unusual or sudden cold patch. The trees may also be defended from frost by providing them with board or plank cover, placing lights under the tree shade, orchard heating. One may also use spume or straw stalk enclosures to protect the young mango trees from frosts. Meanwhile, here is a word of caution. Never prune the dead parts of a mango tree unless the threats of frost are gone by.
Growing mango plants from seedlings is virtually a stake as you never know what kind of tree will sprout from the seedlings. Normally, the fruits available in the supermarkets are doctored with sterilizers or kept in the cold for long periods with a view to keep them viable for sale. Seeds from such fruits are usually discolored and not effective for propagation. If you wish to propagate mango trees from seeds, remove the shell of the seed before it is dehydrated and sow it in the soil with the bulge at the soil plane. Usually it takes two to four weeks for the seeds to germinate and if you use bottom heat, it will speed up the process. The seed will germinate numerous poly-embryonic seedlings and they must be segregated cautiously as soon after sprouting so that you may save the cotyledons. Mango trees propagated from seedlings generally bear fruits between three to six years’ period. You may also try grafting the plants for healthy growth between April and September, but it is better to undertake the process between May and August. It is always advisable to use petite plants with pencil graft with common whip graft as these two come off well with each other. In case of larger trees, multiple implants can be made in the circlet or furrowed bark graft at the same time. In fully grown trees, one may top work with crown or grove bark graft or prune hard and the whip graft shoots after some time.
Using plastic bags containing few drops of moisture enhances the success rate of the grafting. You may also graft during the middle of the summer in the second year using cleft, side or tongue or splice implant. It is important for both the implant as well as the stock of the main tree to swell to give rise to new growths. In fact, implants are most flourishing if the leaves of the plants permitted to hang about below the graft. At the same time, remember to get rid of the saps or suckers. Normally, it is always better to use implants or grafts of the size of a pencil of firm wood with at least three or four joints/ nodes. Remember to wrap up the grafted region with a loose perforated white paper bag as this will provide necessary shade to the area. In case of top working, never shed the top branches of the tree at the same time, but let a few (at least two) leafy branches to remain unharmed. Although marcottage has been found to be possible in damp type of weather or greenhouses, you can expect the desired results only in a few plants.
Despite the fact that mango trees normally grow up to 10 to 40 feet in height, they are also precise as well as fruitful when grown in large pots or greenhouses. If you wish to grow mango trees in containers begin by doing so with plants of the better known cultivable varieties. It is best to pick the best Indian cultivars (plant variety produced by breeding) as comparatively these plants yield more fruits vis-à-vis the efforts put in. First get a large tub or drum and put casters or small wheels below it for easy movement of the tub. If the plant is being cultivated in a greenhouse, keep the atmosphere as arid as possible to steer clear of fungal plant disease called anthracnose. In addition, use ventilators as well as position a fan nearby to enable free movement of air on all sides of the trees. In order to restrain mites, the plants must be washed with hosepipes in the morning once every week. The trees may also require frequent spraying of pesticides to remain free from anthracnose and mealy bug.
If you are growing mango trees in the greenhouse or orchard, you will find scale, mealy bugs and mites to be the most common pests. In addition to these pests, thrips discolor the mango tree leaves and make them to appear rusty brown. While Malathion is the most common pesticides spray used to protect the plants from such pests, sulfur-based insecticides are best to restrain the mites. On the other hand, gophers or burrowing rodents are fascinated by the mango tree roots. Similarly, clusters of flowers along the stem, young fruits and the leaves are susceptible to powdery mildew – a fungal disease of plants scientifically known as Oidium mangiferae. The plants suffer from this fungal disease during the rainy season or recurrent fogs. This can be restrained or done away with by spraying powdered kelp (brown seaweed) at the bud break. Apart from this, sodium bicarbonate and fungicide sprays are also effectual in controlling such attacks. It is important to note that mango trees planted along the pavements in the open air hardly ever contact mildew.
Blemishes created by bacteria known as Colletotrichum oleosporides disfigures the new mango tree leaves and turn them black. Such bacterial spots also disfigure the fruits and leave them black in color. What is worse is that such infections may also extend to new growths. While anthracnose can be restrained by applying copper spray or captan (a type of fungicide) twice a month when new growth commences and till the flowers blossom. In order to maintain healthy growth of the trees and high yields, one must recommence spraying the fungicide when the fruits begin to develop. It is important to bear in mind that the mango trees are receptive to root loss owing to digging, transplanting or damage by gophers. Presence of too much nitrogen in the soil is supposed to lead to ‘soft nose’ – a physical disorder of shrinking at the fruit tips. Another problem is that if the mango fruits are exposed to high temperatures, they may develop sunburns.
Normally, mango fruits are harvested between 100 and 150 days after the plant bears flowers. It may be mentioned here that the fruits will have the best essence if they are allowed to ripen on the trees. When the fruits are raw they are normally green in color and firm to touch. However, the colors of ripened mangoes vary according to the characteristics of the variety and a lot akin to the peach is soft to touch. It is advisable that when the first fruit on the tree displays colors of ripening, all fruits of the same or larger size may be plucked. The process may be repeated from time to time as the other fruits too change color. Here is a word of caution: never store the mango fruit at a temperature below 50°F. In order to ripen the semi-mature fruits inside the room, keep the stem end of the fruits down in trays and cover them with a damp cloth to shun shriveling or shrinking.