Case of Vanishing Mangoes

Just few years you could buy basketful of wild variety of mangoes or what we in Marathi call gaothi varieties from the adivasis who put stalls around Badlapur station, my farmer friend Gharkedkar ruminated as we waited for the 12.28 pm CST local on our way back home on a Sunday.

Things have changed over the years. Wild varieties no more make their appearance in the market for two reasons: One, due to lack of takers and second, hardly getting a respectable price.

Now you can only get Safeda, Totapuri, Alphonso and their likes. The wild, many of them unnamed varieties have all vanished. In an age when branding is what makes one stand out in the crowd and with people’s taste changing with urbanisation this was likely to happen. Even media and those who run it, mostly urbanites, when they talk of mangoes it’s either Hapus, Dasehri, Langda and others.

Wild varieties need to be saved for the genetic variety as we owe it to future generations to conserve and pass on these precious gifts of nature.

Interestingly, a beginning has been made in Karnataka. Farmers in Karnataka are exploring ways to conserve this natural heritage, writes Hindu Business Line.    

For those who have grown up in the rural areas of coastal Karnataka, kaatu maavu or kaadu maavu (wild mangoes) are an incomparable treat. Today, such memories are in danger of remaining just that, thanks to rapidly decreasing sources of wild mango varieties.

A farmer’s meet held recently at Ubaru village, in Bantwal, discussed ways of conserving wild mango varieties. Surrounded by areca nut plantations, and jackfruit and mango trees, Rajagopal Bhat’s house was the venue for the farmers’ meet. The verandah turned into a makeshift meeting place with experts.  The Mapalathota Subraya Bhat plantation in Sullia taluk is a labour of love with 150 varieties of mango, many of them wild. Bhat has travelled to nook and corner of the mango-growing-areas in coastal Karnataka to collect many of these varieties.

The meet was organised mainly to find good varieties of wild mangoes and find ways to propagate them. Some 50 farmers from the surrounding villages brought around 130 varieties to the meet. Of these, six varieties were identified as ideal for pickle-making based on criterion such as colour, aroma, taste and crispness, and six others were picked as ideal fruits based on the quality of the flesh.

Shree Padre, an expert in rainwater harvesting and Editor of Adike Patrike (a farm journal), says each geographical area has its unique wild varieties. Tender wild mangoes are often used to make pickles. The appe midi, a sought-after variety, is limited to some areas of Sagar in Shimoga district. The fruits are eaten raw as well as cooked in a range of dishes in coastal Karnataka.

Dr Ashwini Krishnamurthy, trustee of Varanasi Research Foundation (an agriculture research organisation), cited the example of the Bolwar kuku (mango in the local Tulu language) famous in Puttur town. Rich in pulp and with a thin seed, this variety is under threat of extinction, as the area where it grows is now earmarked for road widening.

‘Mundappa’ is another local variety that many people in Dakshina Kannada district would readily recall. Ayurveda specialist Dr K.S. Kamath, from Manchi village, says this variety originally came from the compound of a house on Dongarakery-New Chitra Theatre Road in Mangalore.

A red variant of this mango used to grow on three trees in the heart  Mangalore city until a few years ago. None of them can be found today as a posh shopping mall stands on that land. Ironically, the hypermarkets at that mall stock a range of hybrid mangoes, but the local red mundappa can no longer be had for love or money.

And where the wild varieties continue to grow even today, the difficulty is in finding people to pluck them. Pickle manufacturer Saravu Ganapati Bhat, from Vittal, said harvest of tender mangoes is limited to 8-10 days in a year and it is difficult to find people for the job during that crucial period. Plucking typically starts at 8 a.m. and is usually completed by afternoon. A bigger tree may take longer, up to 4 p.m.

Some wild varieties need nearly a quarter acre when they are fully grown. This makes it inadvisable for farmers with small holdings.

The meet also focused on developing wild varieties through grafting. Farm experts taught participants the techniques involved in the grafting.

Do you know of any wild variety and would like to share details with us, do write to me.


12 thoughts on “Case of Vanishing Mangoes

  1. Hello. I came to this post when I did a google search for ‘mundappa mango.’ I just wanted to let you know that I am quoting from your post, and linking back to it. If you would like me to remove the link and quote, please let me know. Thanks.

  2. Just wanted to share a few information.
    I am one of the Descendants of the Mundappa Clan. My grandmother who died a couple of years back aged 106 and my late mother and uncle told me stories about the Mango that grew in their front yard. How as children in the middle of the night they would run out on hearing a thud noise. It was the mango they knew that had fallen. The Mango was so big that they would not be able to hold it one hand and it was as sweet as nectar and other thing I heard from them is that the seed inside was very small compared to any other mango – just one way to check if the Mango is still around.
    The mango and the tree were as famous as the man in whose front yard the fruit grew – Babu Mundappa-a business man and my grandmother’s only brother. From Surathkal to Malpe towards the north and Kudla further south in Dakshina Kannada (Karnataka) Babu Mundappa was a well know figure. Even today the older generations in and around Hosabettu know about the Mango tree and the man after whom the mango was named

    A few miles from Surathkal in a coastal village called Hosabettu –say five minutes from NH17 still exists the House rebuilt by him in the year 1926. The house must have existed much before say around 1917 or much earlier. The engraving on the Marble stone on one of the pillars mounted by a seated lion on each at the gate reads – New Babu Mundappa House. To have such a house in those days was a novelty. This is where the tree existed and was the only one around. Now the tree may not be there but the Mango caught up with the name and I am surprised I still get to hear that such a mango really ever existed. There is no concrete evidence to my claim apart from the existence of the house until I make a complete research. This is what I heard from my earlier generations – Mahesh Anand Puthran(Face book)-30th May 2014.

    1. hiraman

      Hello mahesh
      thanks for stopping by and leaving your comment. Its true the word ‘mango’ brings back so much memories in us. thanks for sharing yours.It would be nice if any food archeologist could trace “Mundappa Mango”.

    2. hiraman

      Hello Mahesh
      Did you know that District Agricultural Farm, located in Taliparamba, Kannur has been propagating Mundappa Mangoes through its nursery along with 51 others?

  3. prakash

    Mundappa is pretty common in DK and Malabar area.. One of the best from that region – very fleshy and tasty and as pointed out above very small and thin seed. But once the rain starts this variety quickly starts to rot. My uncle in Suratkal grows some 10-20 trees.. Visit to him in summer is always mundappa times..

  4. S.V Prabhu

    I was also searching for Mundappa mango. We had a tree of Mundappa mango in Karambar(near Airport Mangalore). The mango used to be very big and very tasty(sweet). I was thinking that because of its size it was called “Munappa”

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