We bongs are known to be quite possessive and eccentric in nature- especially towards our food and culture. And, for us, summer means Mango– period. But, do we know how many varieties of mango are grown in bengal, apart from the usual Lyangra, Himsagar and Fajli ? Please don’t faint, but officially, only in the Murshidabad district, 124 varieties of mango are cultivated. And in this slightly boring blogpost, I’ll try to discuss few of them, please bear with me.
Meanwhile, I’ve seen a brilliant illustration on the overall mango madness, so felt like sharing it …
A bit of bengal history first …
Nawab Murshid Quli Jafar Khan can be praised for the mango orchards in Murshidabad. By now, let’s assume, we know that there are two most famous mango producing zones in West Bengal- namely Murshidabad and Malda. Off course some fantastic varieties are found in West Midnapore, but they are rare, very rare. Now, when Nawab Murshid Quli Jafar Khan had transferred his capital from Dhaka to Murshidabad in 1704, he was the one to encourage the mango orchards there. Now maybe nawab saab was fond of mangoes or what, history doesn’t really enlighten us on that. But, what is sure that this gentleman needs some praise, only for this. Also, another interesting tryst with history can be, the famous (or infamous) battle of plassey in 1757, which took place in the mango orchard at Jiaganj, around 8 km from Murshidabad town.
The sheherwali madness with mango …
Now, unlike the famed Alphanso variety, most of the mangoes grown in Bengal, are what you call as Nazook. The shelf life is really low. There are specific dates and even times when one mango should be had and they are maintained quite religiously. Even a metal knife can’t touch few of the varieties, because the flesh will lose its texture. But here, for mango madness, one community beats the bongs by miles- the sheherwalis. Their madness about mangoes are difficult to match. In around 18th century, few jains from Gujrat settled in bengal, around the area near the twin town of Ajimganj and Jiaganj. They were mostly bankers and financiers and one of the wealthiest class. They brought with them a mixed cuisine with influence from Mughlai gharana and Rajasthani and adapted it to bengal. Under their patronage, murshidabad mangoes became a sign of sophistication – a way of classy life. Their cuisine was mostly a mix-up of sweet and tangy in taste and purely vegetarian- vastly different from what we’re mostly used.
It’s said a sheherwali has got a uncanny knack of following the perfect ripening time of a mango and precision of cutting it. I’d like to share a small video here …
Okay, back to modern times …
Now, at this point in time, you may rightfully curse me that what’s the use of all this when we can’t taste them … Agreed but in recent times, West Bengal Government, rather the Food Processing Industries and And Horticulture Department in collaboration with Indian Chamber Of Commerce has been organizing a Mango festival to promote mangoes every year. And this year, the mela was held in New Town Mela Ground from 8-10th June 2018. the main idea was to showcase different varieties of mango from different districts and adjacent states and one huge competition with mango based recipes.
As usual, I ran to experience it. Frankly, the arrangement was superb- AC hanger, ample parking space and lots and lots of mangoes. What I could find out that there are mainly three districts, from where these mango sellers are brought in- Murshidabad, Malda and West Midnapore. Most of the sellers were not used to this type of a mela settings and that was inevitable. The mangoes were priced on an average at 50-60/- a KG. I personally bought around 20 varieties of mango (1-2 from each variety) and that made my stock for next couple of days. But, let’s cut the crap and let me come down straight to the mango varieties.
Frankly, being an urban buyer, I’ve hardly heard of these varieties before this festival, apart from the usual suspects Lyangra/ Himsagar and Fajli. Though my personal choice is Himsagar (being a sweet person, I love pure sweet varieties … LOL), after tasting these varieties, it as actually spoiled me. The varieties that I’ll show now, have mostly one common trait- the seed (or aanti in bengali) is mostly thin and the flavors are very distinct.
The Murshidabad variety first …
Being the prime area, this deserves the first mention. Okay, so, the below collage depicts the major varieties of mangoes that I’ve got from the stalls. Amongst which, few definitely needs a special shout out.
If interested, you can check a small video shot by me here …
- Champa- This one is extremely aromatic- very very mango-ish (I know it’s sounding stupid). The taste is super sweet and it’s not very large in size
- Bhabani- Though being extremely sweet, the outer jacket and seed (aanti) both are thick and it’s slightly less fleshy. However, sweetness makes up for it.
- Rani- This mango variety was named by Raja Prasanna Narayan Deb, Dewan of Nizamat Qilla, Murshidabad. This one is the showstopper among the murshidabad mango varieties
- Molum Jung- I was told, this variety is for the diabetic patients. It’s a mix-up of sweet and sour taste. Historically, this variety was started in murshidabad. In mughal time, this variety was also named as “Anupan”
- Saranga- The other name of this variety is Lajjat Buksh. Lajjat means taste and buksh means satisfaction. This super juicy mango variety was named by Nawab Syed Jaynal Abedin Khan. This variety can actually stand in competition with the Rani variety.
- Anaras- And finally Anaras. This is probably some hybrid between mango and pineapple and actually tangy- sour and has got a taste like pineapple. though I personally didn’t like it much, but the thing is unique.
And finally, there is the king of mangoes- Kohitoor. It’s too delicate to be served on a basket and is kept inside a layer of medical cotton. Per piece is priced at 700/- , yes not per kg, per pc. I was told, in one tree, there comes 10-12 mangoes per season and hence this price point. Extreme care needs to be taken during cutting of this. I haven’t tasted it, as somebody is supposed to give me a treat with this, but I’m definitely interested.
Let’s visit Malda now …
Malda mangoes, on the other hand, was generally slightly bigger in size. I don’t know whether the bigger varieties were brought here or what is it, but that was the scenario. I tasted only two varieties here and was seriously impressed with Gopalbhog. Though I was told that an original Gopalbhog looks different, but what the heck. Kalapahar, on the other hand, was little pungent and was of a watery texture. When you get a superb variety within reach, why should someone not enjoy it ?
And finally West Midnapore
I understand that after Murshidabad and Malda, it won’t be a fair thing to talk about Midnapore. But let me assure you, I tasted few of the best among all these varieties there. The sellers, Joydeep Kundu from Krishnanagar breeds mangoes purely out of passion and for his family’s consumption. But, three of his varieties simply blew me away. Super sweet, super yummy and juicy to the core. I’ll definitely get in touch with him for my future consumption and he assured, he’ll help. The Kheersapta was sweeter than a patisapta (but sadly lacked the punch), wherein Lakshmanbhog and Mallika were super aromatic.
So, the final verdict ?
All of them are good- I mean damn good. In fact, I’ll even say that after tasting all these varieties, it’ll be difficult to enjoy a Himsagar or Lyangra for me and my family. But well, they are the ones who come to Kolkata market regularly and saves the day for us.
And definitely thanks to West Bengal Government for getting this together and giving us a chance to enjoy it.
Bon apetit !!!
Comments and critics welcome.
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