Monday, September 19, 2022


Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Nature, Agriculture, Biodiversity, Culture, Society

Ed Hessler

The dynasty of the Mughal Empire lasted some three centuries, from 1526 to 1858.
Alia Yunis writes that it "ended much as it started: wrapped in a love of poetry, painting --and mangos."  (UL added)

Mangos and the complex history of this period are the subject of an essay about this fruit in Aramco World September / October 2022). The Mughal Empire began with "Babur, a descendant of...Genghis Khan and Central Asian conqueror Amir Timur." Babar had "few kind words...for his new domain" but said that the mango was "the best fruit of Hindustan."
In his autobiography Babar described how to eat this fruit. "One is to squeeze it to a pulp, make a hole in it, and suck out the juice, the other, to peel and eat it like a kardi peach." *

The mango, according to Yunis, is "India's beloved national fruit," with the state of Goa the major grower. The mango tree (Mangifera indica)  is estimated to have "developed in the wild about 4000 ya." Interestingly, Babur's son Humayun and successor Akbar the Great...changed the course of mango history more than anyone else with a contribution that went back to the Moors." 

The connections, influences, rulers and knowledge, including their wide ranging geography are fascinating. One is the development of an agricultural practice "unknown to the rest of Europe."  It developed "in the 12th century"  with  horticulturalist Abu Zakariya" who, in his "Book of Agriculture... put into writing the science of plant grafting, the process by which two plants are joined...." 

The Jesuit missionaries who were "sent to Goa by the Portuguese...set about grafting the trees" to increase the availability of these fruits which were so new and delicious to them.  By the mid-16th century...Akbar sent for the Jesuits to come "to his court in Agra to pass along their skills in mango tree grafting. Akbar then commissioned the 100,000-tree Lakhi Bagh orchards...where grafting" led to hundreds of mango varieties.This led to their geographic spread with the Mughals "spread the grafting of mangos across South Asia (and) Portuguese and Arab traders (spreading) mango sees to Yemen, Egypt, East Africa and the tropics of the Americas."

The result according to Yunis has been the development of "more than 1000 mango varieties, 106 of which are found in Goa. The mango season in Goa is short--late March to early June. Global production is growing and global trade and the industrialization of mango production is making it possible for more and more people to enjoy them. Yunis cites one estimate "that by 2030 global production will reach 84 million metric tons (94 million US tons), half of which will come from India." Two other nations are currently major exporters: Thailand and Indonesia.

There is a favorite variety in India, "the Alphonso (also nicknamed Hapoo) and  it originated in Goa. 

Mangos can have some side effects, one of which Yunis mentions, for it showed up "in Mughal-era medical records that speak of the heat the fruit ignites when consumed to excess. ... Ayurvedic medicine widely practiced in the region (Goa)" considers the mango "as a food which heats the body, not one that cools it." For two contemporary discussions see here and here

In closing Yunis writes "while there may be limits to the number of mangos a person can eat, there seems to be none to the stories and myths about them. Some may be overheated, but only some have been shared here, in keeping with sensible moderation."

Yunis' essay is lavishly illustrated and extraordinarily well told. The complex history she distilled was done with "sensible moderation."

The complete essay may be read here.
* I was not able to find a good reference for Kardi peaches. Maybe you can.

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