It’s that time of year when everything is bathed in a warm, fuzzy, honey glow and there’s a sweet fragrance in the air. That might be partly due to summer setting in across India but it’s also because the best (and India’s national) fruit is making the rounds. For most Indians, summer is synonymous with mangoes; climbing trees to pluck those sunshine-coloured fruits or watching our grannies prepare mango pickles for the year. Mangoes are a habit that many of us find hard to give up.
As we prepare for another summer of golden goodness we thought we’d help you make your mango season better. We’re sure everyone has their favourite mango, and we’re not here to tell you which one is the best, but in a country with over hundreds of mango varieties, why would you limit yourself to just a few? While this list is by no means exhaustive, many of these varieties are well-known in certain parts of the country and virtually unknown elsewhere.
This is perhaps the most famous mango there is. The alphonso is the poster boy for mangoes, ripening to a perfect golden with just the right amount of firmness to allow you to bite right into a slice. It is usually eaten on its own but it does find its way into desserts too. This mango gets its rather European name from Afonso de Albuquerque, a Portuguese soldier who conquered Goa. States: Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh.
The Banganapalli has sometimes been called the more economical – though equally flavoursome – cousin of the alphonso. This large, oblong-shaped mango takes its name from a town in Andhra Pradesh. It can be used in a variety of ways, from pickles to gravies to ras (juice). States: Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Tamil Nadu.
The saroli is a green, medium-sized mango, found in the Sindh belt. It is oblong in shape and usually available in the early stages of the season, but doesn’t last for very long. States: Uttar Pradesh and Haryana.
The chausa is the pairi and kesar of North India, in terms of how it is to be eaten. This mango is found in the belt stretching across Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Rajasthan, However, the sweetest of these mangoes comes from Pakistan and is often exported around the world, much like alphonsos are. Last year, crates of chausa were even sent by Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to Narendra Modi as a peace offering. Chausas, with their bright yellow skin and sweet pulp, are available towards the end of the mango season (July-August), when most other varieties are over for the year. States: Bihar, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.
The mango belt of Malihabad, about 30km from Lucknow, is home to the famous dussehri mangoes. This sweet, aromatic, medium-sized mango was granted a Geographic Indication (GI) registration in 2009, signifying that its trademark shape and taste are due to its geographic origins. The fibreless mango is slightly long in shape, with a greenish-yellow colour and a sweet taste. Click here for some interesting folklore associated with the much-loved variety. States: Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab.
When the people responsible for some of the best desserts (Bengalis, in case you were wondering) in the country vouch for the himsagar as the best mango around, you’d be wise to pay them some heed. This medium-to-large variety is in season during May, and is available for about four weeks. Its yellow skin hides a creamy, fleshy, fibre-free body that is great to eat as is, or to use in items like milkshakes. States: West Bengal and Bihar.
This regally-named mango comes from the south, from Tiruchirapalli in Tamil Nadu more specifically, although it was brought to the state from Andhra Pradesh (which makes sense given its Nawabi-inspired name). This variety doesn’t stay long – it is available only during the months of May and June. Its hue morphs from green to straw-yellow as it ripens. A bite into one of these mangoes will reveal a tangy outer layer that hides the sweet flesh inside. States: Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana.
If you enjoy good food you’ve probably had the Gujarati delicacy that isaamras-puri. Or just gorged on bowls of pure, golden, aamras, a mango pulp preparation. However you’ve enjoyed it, most times this is the mango you should thank – the kesar. The variety gets its name, which means “saffron”, from its colour and rich fragrance. This mango isn’t made to be cut. You have to either make it a little hole at the top and suck out its creamy contents while getting delicious pulp all over your hands and chin. Or if you’d like to be an adult about it, use this to make purees, milkshakes and the like. State: Gujarat.
This medium-sized variant is found in West Bengal’s Murshidabad district. It is mostly round in shape, with a sweet taste thanks to its fleshy tissue. It is available between May and July. State: West Bengal.
A mango that makes many North Indians go weak in the knees is the langra (pronounced “laen-gra”). It takes its name from the Hindi word for “lame” because according to legend, it first appeared in the orchard of a lame man in Varanasi. Unlike other mangoes on this list, this oval-shaped fruit doesn’t turn a golden colour; it stays greenish-yellow through the ripening season. This variety is characterised by its thin skin and a pulp that is both sweet and acidic. States: Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, West Bengal and Punjab.
Mangoes plus beaches equals a blissful summer in my books. And that’s exactly what’s on offer in Goa, thanks to its local mango varieties of mankurad and the reddish-yellow fernandina. Mankurads are usually available mid-season. Ideally this small-to-medium-sized mango should be less fibrous and have just the right balance of sweet and acidic flavours. State: Goa.
Neelam is a variety of tiny mangoes that fits in your fist and arrives with the monsoon. These mangoes are known to have a vibrant yellow-to-orange flesh, with a smooth skin and almost no fibres. States: Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Odisha.
There is no way to eat this variety of mango without getting your fingers and chin covered in its sweet, orange pulp. But that isn’t a bad thing. These medium-to-large aromatic mangoes, with their deep yellow, mottled skins, are not meant to be cut. Like Gujarat’s kesar variety, pairis are eaten by rolling it around in your palms a bit, to soften the insides, before making a hole at the top and gulping down its contents. For people with a sweet tooth, the pairi is definitely a mango you must try. Also, like the kesar, the pairi is often used to make aamras and milkshakes. States: Gujarat and Maharashtra.
The totapuri gets its name from the fruit’s hooked tip, which resembles a parrot’s beak (tota is the Hindi word for “parrot”). You may not want to bite into a totapuri as it isn’t very sweet, but it’s great for salads. Although, for those who prefer a little tang in their mangoes, this one is right up your alley. It’s also used – albeit with a lot of other ingredients – to make drinks like Maaza and Minute Maid. States: Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu.
This list was first published in 2015.
Kamakshi Ayyar is a former member of NGT India's digital team. She is partial to places by the sea and desserts in all forms. When she isn't raving about food, she's usually rambling on about the latest cosmic mysteries. She tweets as @kamakshi138.
Sahil Upalekar illustrates for various ad agencies and publication houses. An avid collector of comics, he realised his dream to be a comics artist when he started illustrating for Tinkle Magazine and Digest in 2013. He loves to travel.