The mango is known as the ‘king of fruit’ throughout the world.
The name ‘mango’ is derived from the Tamil word ‘mangkay’ or ‘man-gay’. When the Portuguese traders settled in Western India they adopted the name as ‘manga’.
Mangos originated in East India, Burma and the Andaman Islands bordering the Bay of Bengal. Around the 5th century B.C., Buddhist monks are believed to have introduced the mango to Malaysia and eastern Asia – legend has it that Buddha found tranquility and repose in a mango grove. Persian traders took the mango into the middle east and Africa, from there the Portuguese brought it to Brazil and the West Indies. Mango cultivars arrived in Florida in the 1830’s and in California in the 1880’s.
The Mango tree plays a sacred role in India; it is a symbol of love and some believe that the Mango tree can grant wishes.
In the Hindu culture hanging fresh mango leaves outside the front door during Ponggol (Hindu New Year) and Deepavali is considered a blessing to the house.
Mango leaves are used at weddings to ensure the couple bear plenty of children (though it is only the birth of the male child that is celebrated – again by hanging mango leaves outside the house).
Hindus may also brush their teeth with mango twigs on holy days (be sure to rinse well and spit if you try this at home – toxic).
Many Southeast Asian kings and nobles had their own mango groves; with private cultivars being sources of great pride and social standing, hence began the custom of sending gifts of the choicest mangos.
The Tahis like to munch mango buds, with Sanskrit poets believing they lend sweetness to the voice.
Burning of mango wood, leaves and debris is not advised – toxic fumes can cause serious irritation to eyes and lungs.
Mango leaves are considered toxic and can kill cattle or other grazing livestock.
In India, a certain shade of yellow dye was attained by feeding cattle small amounts of mango leaves and harvesting their urine. Of course as stated above, this is a contraindicated practice, since mango leaves are toxic and cattle are sacred. It has since been outlawed.
Mangos are bursting with protective nutrients. The vitamin content depends upon the variety and maturity of the fruit, when the mango is green the amount of vitamin C is higher, as it ripens the amount of beta carotene (vitamin A) increases.
There are over 20 million metric tons of mangos grown throughout the tropical and sub-tropical world. The leading mango producer is India, with very little export as most are consumed within the country. Mexico and China compete for second place, followed by Pakistan and Indonesia. Thailand, Nigeria, Brazil, Philippines and Haiti follow in order.
According to the Foreign Agricultural Organization, the top mango exporters reported in 1997 are as follows in order: Mexico, Brazil, South Africa, Haiti, Guatemala, Venezuela, Peru, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic.
The fruit of the mango is called a Drupe – consisting of the mesocarp (edible fleshy part) and endocarp(large woody, flattened pit).
The mango is a member of the Anachardiaceae family. Other distant relatives include the cashew, pistachio, Jamaica plum, poison ivy and poison oak.
The over 1,000 known mango cultivars are derived from two strains of mango seed – monoembryonic (single embryo) and polyembryonic (multiple embryo). Monoembryonic hails from the Indian (original) strain of mango,
polyembryonic from the Indochinese.
Dermatitis can result from contact with the resinous latex sap that drips from the stem end when mangos are harvested. The mango fruit skin is not considered edible.
Every part of the mango is beneficial and has been utilized in folk remedies in some form or another. Whether the bark, leaves, skin or pit; all have been concocted into various types of treatments or preventatives down through the centuries. A partial list of the many medicinal properties and purported uses attributed to the mango tree are as follows: anti-viral, anti-parasitic, anti-septic, anti-tussive (cough), anti-asthmatic, expectorant, cardiotonic, contraceptive, aphrodisiac, hypotensive, laxative, stomachic (beneficial to digestion)….
Mangiferin – rich in splenocytes, found in the stem bark of the mango tree has purported potent immunomodulatory characteristics – believed to inhibit tumor growth in early and late stages.