Mango, The Other Kalpavriksha

You think a raw mango can only be pickled and a ripe one only be eaten raw? Here are other culinary tricks you can try on that summer fruit.

By Ratna Rajaiah


There are many translations of that word, the most literal — “wish granting tree” and the most common — “tree of life”. The tree, thus revered with this title, provides almost everything that you need to live a simple but good life — nourishment, medicine, divine offerings, shelter, fuel, tools, wood for furniture and utensils, even wine. So, in India, traditionally, it is the coconut tree that gets the title.

But there are a few other trees that, in my opinion, equally worthy contenders. Today, I introduce you to one of them — the mango tree.

To start with, as credentials go, like the coconut, the mango is as ancient a denizen of India, counting its Indian ancestry in millions of years. Like the coconut, the mango is a sacred presence, both in the Hindu mythology and in temples. It is said that one of Lord Shiva’s names is “Ekambareswarar”, a modified form of “Eka-Amra-Natha” or the Lord of the Mango tree. In the compound of Kanchipuram’s Ekambareswarar temple (built by the Pallavas), is a mango tree — said to be 3500 years old. It is also said that the four branches of the tree represent the four Vedas, which is why each branch bears fruit of a completely different taste! And, like the coconut, there is almost no part of the mango tree not of some use.

The mango steals a march on the coconut on one count — the number of varieties (at least a thousand). You can virtually draw the map of India with the mango, because almost every state proudly boasts of its one own distinct variety. For example, Uttar Pradesh – the largest mango producing state – is home to the famous Langda and Dassehri, the latter getting its name from the village where it originated and where the mother tree is said to be still standing!

Maharashtra’s Raigad and Devnagiri districts are where the global superstar Alphonso originated; Andhra Pradesh is home to the large, pale-gold Banganpalli or Safeda and the beautiful Swarnrekha.

From Gujarat come Vanraj and Kesar; Fazli and Himsagar from Bengal also grows in Bihar, along with the Bihari favourite – Malda. Neelam and Malgoa from Tamil Nadu. Sindhooram and Chandrakaran from Kerala. And from Karnataka — Badami, Raspari and Totapari — the last one getting its name because of its resemblance to the parrot!

And these are only a few of the names that roll off the tongue, like the titles of some exotic potentate. Be it a Banganapalle from a Badami. The question. What can you do to a mango except pickle it when it’s raw and eat it when it’s ripe? The answer is below!

Mango Relish

This simple and delicious relish is also wonderfully versatile. You can serve it with anything — from dosas to samosas to cutlets, use it as a sandwich spread, or then simply with plain, hot steamed rice, dal and a dash of ghee as a great meal. You can make it EITHER with unripe or ripe mangoes!


For the masala powder

50 gm sesame seeds (preferably black sesame for better flavour)

6-8 dried red chillies

For the relish

2 medium sized mangoes (ripe or unripe), washed, dried, peeled and cut into small pieces

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 dried red chilli, broken into pieces

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

A pinch of asafoetida

10-12 curry leaves

1 tablespoon salt

200-250 gm jaggery, broken into small pieces (adjust to taste)


Method: Separately dry-roast the sesame seeds and dried red chillis till you get a roasted aroma. Grind to a fine powder. Keep aside.

Heat the oil, then add the red chilli and the mustard seeds. When the seeds start to splutter, add the curry leaves and asafoetida. Add the mango pieces and stir for a few minutes till the pieces begin to turn transparent. Add the salt, jaggery and about half a cup of water till the jaggery dissolves and the mango is cooked and tender. (Add more water if necessary.) Taste, and if necessary, add more jaggery and/or salt to cut the sourness.

Add the sesame and chilli masala powder, stir well and cook for a few minutes till the mixture begins to bubble.

Remove from heat, allow it to cool, and store in a dry, airtight glass jar. Use only dry spoons and the relish will keep for at least 2 weeks.

Ripe Mango in Mustardy Coconut curry

A no-cook, tangy, unusual dish from my mother’s cornucopia of recipes and a particular favourite in south coastal Karnataka!

Ingredients (serves 4)

4-5 dried red chillies

½ a coconut, scraped or cut into small pieces for grinding

1 ½ teaspoon grated jaggery (if the mangoes are a little sour, increase to adjust the sourness)

2 thumbnail size pieces of tamarind

1 teaspoon mustard

4 medium sized mangoes (the ‘desi’, no-pedigree varieties work best, but any mango will do!)

Salt to taste

For the seasoning:

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 dried red chilli, broken into pieces

¼ teaspoon mustard seeds

7-8 curry leaves

A pinch of asafoetida

Method: Roast the dried red chillies on a tava till the colour begins to change. You get the roasted aroma. Grind together with coconut, tamarind and jaggery till you get a thick coarse paste. Add the mustard seeds and grind till you get a chutney-like consistency.

Peel and dice the mangoes. Take about a quarter of the diced mango and squish with your fingers. Add with the diced mango to the ground coconut mixture. Stir well. (Traditionally, the whole mango is just squashed a little and used, but many people may find this messy to eat.)

Heat the oil. Add the dried red chilli and mustard. When the mustard starts spluttering, add curry leaves and asafoetida. When the spluttering stops, remove from fire and pour carefully over the mango-coconut mixture. Mix well. Serve with steamed rice or hot chapattis.

How to make lemon rice without lemons?

Substitute the lemon juice with grated raw mango, roughly about 2 tablespoons for the juice of 1 lemon, depending on how sour the mango is.


— Ratna Rajaiah is an author and a columnist. She lives and cooks in Mysore.