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The mango is a common dessert fruit in Asia. Dozens of mango varieties exist, with the more popular ones being the Indonesian Harum Manis, Indian Alphonso and the Thai Tong Dum.
Origins and distribution
The mango tree is thought to be native to Southeast Asia. Having been cultivated for many centuries, it has spread to various other regions, extending as far as Africa, Australia and even California, USA. The tree belongs to the Anacardiaceae family and hundreds of species exist, owing to its seed propagation. Of these, the majority are found in India and Pakistan, while approximately 20 varieties are found in the Malay Peninsula.
The height of the tree varies substantially between species and can range from 30 to 100 ft. The bark of the tree is fairly rough, often scarred by vertical fissures. Leaves are simple and usually arranged in a spiral They come in different shades of green and generally have a leathery texture. Flowers are produced in showy abundance twice yearly. They bloom during the pre-monsoon seasons and take about four months to mature. Ripe fruits differ greatly in terms of taste, colour, shape and size. In general, choice fruits are a delightful shade of yellow, sometimes with a greenish, pale orange or vermilion flush. They are somewhat full and oval shaped, tapering to a "beak" at one end. The orange-yellow flesh is sweet and succulent with a wonderfully fragrant and exotic aroma. Each contains a single, elongated, fibrous seedstone which clings to the flesh. It should be noted that some unripe mangoes contain a highly irritating sap which can cause extreme discomfort to those with allergies or hypersensitivity.
Usage and potential
Apart from being sliced and eaten fresh, there are other means by which the mango is relished. In Thailand, a premium dessert, known as kao niow ma-muang, is prepared by mixing fresh mango slices in sweet sticky rice and coconut cream. As the fruit perishes quickly after ripening, it is often preserved in syrup and canned. Mangoes are traditionally preserved as pickles and chutneys or cut into strips and dried in the sun. In India, it is commonly believed that mango chutneys act as a diuretic and help promote appetite. Other mango products include strained baby food, juices, jellies, ice cream, soufflés and even mango custard. During processing, the mango peel is kept as a by-product as it produces pectin which is essential for setting jellies and jams.
Mango flowers are occasionally used to treat diarrhoea in India. In China and Malaya the bitter seed is said to have astringent properties, and is used as a vermifuge.
In poorer districts, mango timber is gathered for manufacturing cheap furniture and crates. The wood is also excellent as charcoal. Gum from the tree bark is converted into gum arabic and used in food processing. The leaves are fed to cattle when fodder is desperately scarce. However, continuous consumption can eventually lead to death as the leaves are poisonous. In Singapore, it is customary to see a string of mango leaves adorning the entrance of Indian homes. This practice serves to remind the families of their ancestors agrarian roots.
Common name: Mango.
Scientific name: Mangifera indica.
Malay name: Mangga.
Thai name: Ma-muang.
Mangga is actually borrowed from the Tamil name, which is of Sanskrit origin.
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(Call no.: RCLOS 634.09595 ALL)
Burkill, I. H. (1966). A dictionary of the economic products of the Malay Peninsula (pp. 1424-1431). Malaysia: Ministry Of Agriculture and Co-Operatives.
(Call no.: RSING 634.909595 BUR)
Hutton, W. (1996). Tropical fruits of Malaysia & Singapore (p. 32) . Hong Kong: Eric M. Oey.
(Call no.: RSING 634.6 HUT)
Piper, J. M. (1989). Fruits of South-East Asia (pp. 29-31). Singapore: Oxford University Press.
(Call no.: RSING 634.60959 PIP)
Indian customs now on video. (1992, November 23). The Straits Times, p. 22.
Lim, T. K. (1985). Diseases and disorders of mango in Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur: Tropical Press.
(Call no.: R 634.44 LIM)
Singh, L. B. (1960). The mango : Botany, cultivation, and utilization. London: L. Hill.
(Call no.: R 634.44 BEH)
The Mango (Mangifera indica L.), harvesting and subsequent handling and processing: An annotated bibliography. (1976). London: Tropical Products Institute, Ministry of Overseas Development.
(Call no.: R 016.63444 MAN)
The mango, a handbook. (1967). New Delhi: Indian Council of Agricultural Research.
(Call no.: R 634.44 IND)
Morton, J. (1987). Mango [Electronic version]. In Morton, J. F., Fruits of warm climates. Retrieved January 9, 2005, from www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/morton/mango_ars.html
The information in this article is valid as at 1999 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history on the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.