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Sunday, April 12, 2015

summer is also the time for mangoes - fruit juices !!

As the mercury shoots up,  people start predicting that ‘this year summer is going to be more hot’ ….  Every magazine you will find health advisories – advocating intake of more liquids, more fruits, more juices and more ....  perhaps,  the easily available ‘buttermilk and lemon’ would do  more good.  Medics will advise on possible infections and ill-effects of juices made with poor quality water and ice.

Summer also is the time of delicious mango season.  Mango is a fruit that has enriched literature. So many stories, real as well as apocryphal, are associated with this sublime fruit. Like cricket among all sports, mango among all fruits has lent itself to the folklore of Indian and subcontinental literature. Viceroy Lord Wavell once jocularly told Gandhiji that foreign forces invaded India for no other reason than mangoes.  Every place in India,  have their own variety of mangoes – some to be eaten ripe, some green and raw and some pickled and devoured.  Sure you can add more to this list ……..Alphonso, Totapuri, Aambaat, Banganapalli,  Neelam, Sindhoori, Malda, Pairi, Chandrakaran, Alphonso, Langra, Gulaab khaas, peddarasalu, Kesar, dashehari, movandhan, mallika …..

It's not just the gadget market that is flooded with imports. With advanced technology,  improved preservation, improved transportation, better marketing -   the  fruit basket is increasingly acquiring a foreign presence.  You walk into any smaller shop aspiring to resemble a super-market, you find many fruits -  names, taste and quality of some – not known to us thus far !!
the kiwi fruit

Apples dominate the fruit imports, followed by pears, oranges, lychees, peaches, kiwi,  gooseberries, strawberries, butter fruit (avocado), durian,  dragon fruits and more.   Even in bananas, there are so many varieties – and so many fruits which were only available at select places like Mangusthan, Manoranjitham, rambutan, paneer fruit are also available.   The import of fruits has nothing to do with taste or customer preference. It is packing, transportation and marketing that ensures that the fruits are made available and sold even during their off-season.  Then there are the packaged juices which sometimes openly confess of not containing ‘fruit juice or fruit pulp’yet sell hot !

Last year we heard that – áam was not any longer aam admi’- and that the Devgad mangoes  were priced Rs 1,400-Rs.1,600 a dozen at Mumbai’s Crawford Market.   It was stated that the  ‘king of fruits’ is almost out-of-bounds for the commoner.  There has been a campaign in recent years that mangoes available locally are not good – stating that they are artificially ripened and are thus would cause harm to health.  True fruits should not be ripened through chemical process but should ripe naturally in grass hay. Ripening  is a biochemical reaction – what calcium carbide does for mangoes is that it produces acetylene gas, which creates heat.  With this mangoes turn yellow, but do not ripen.

Today, a report in Times of India titled ‘mania for mangoes wearing off’states that Chennaiites are consuming fewer mangoes than earlier considering the health reasons, ill-effects of artificial  ripening, It states that the city, where more than 700 tonnes of the king of fruits were eaten every day five years ago consumed a mere 300 tonnes a day during the peak of the season last year, considered a good harvest year, quoting President of  Chennai Fruit Commission Agents' Association. 

This is surprising because the fruit is considered a `super food' and contains high quantities of Vitamin A and C and other nutrients. It could be because people have become more health conscious, say some. Diabetics in particular are advised to stay away from mangoes.” Some farmers also say that  the way mangoes are bought is also changing and that the Koyambedu market is losing relevance.

While it makes sense to ensure that one buys quality mangoes allowed to ripen naturally, one should not be too apprehensive going by the market allegations.  If fear, is the cause – then  the various health benefits reportedly associated with many foreign fruits are untested and not scientifically proved ! – more over those imported fruits, are shown to look fresh and kept beyond their natural shelf-life, by deep freezing.  There could be failure of cold-chains, there are complaints of fruits treated with wax and there is no correct barometer for quality.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
10th Apr 2015.

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