Imagine asking for a bit of Chota Jehangir or a Roos, an Imambara, Baneshan or a Kesari.Then smell the offering seriously and deeply, taste with respect and awe, finally give a considered opinion with a scattering of umms, oohs and aahs. You might be forgiven for thinking this is at an exotic oriental wine tasting ceremony. especially with the sound of the trumpet and drums to greet one and all at the entrance. Actually this is at the ongoing Mango Festival in Pune at the Bal Gandharva Rangmandir on Jungli Maharaj Road.
It is the height of the season and farmers from a number of different areas in Maharashtra have come to share their pick of the crop with the cognoscenti of Pune.Years of eating the best mangoes in the world, in a pulp with poories and ghee, or slice after slice of this delectable fruit , has made the consumer here very discerning . Row upon row of visitors file past the stands where famous varieties such as Alphonso mangoes from Ratnagiri and Raigad districts , Pairi, Radhaphalli, Mulgoa and Mankurad are on show and for sale.
Many of the farmers offer a taste of their perfectly formed fruit and glow with delight if their mangoes are appreciated.
All kinds of mango products were available as well..dried mango strips,mango kaju katli, mango fruitbar, mango squashes, as well as kulfi and pickle naturally.
Mrunmayee Shembekar had produced a nicely packaged range at her unit 'Janjeera' at Hingne Khurd on the Sinhgad Road which were selling well.
We walked slowly around the simple stalls and tasted such wonderful fruit....picking up several pointers, one being how to choose kesari mangoes for ripeness . Since they are traditionally green even when ripe it is difficult to judge the level of its ripeness.
Young Atula Jadhav and her mother Sharmila showed us that the mango with minuscule white spots on the skin has still some way to go before being ready for table and the one that is just right for eating has spots which have enlarged and are yellow.Their Kesari mangoes grown at Sunanda farms ( named after Atula's grandmother) in Tuljapur Taluka were outstanding, by far the best of the many I had tasted.They had been ripened on the tree and were even better than the famed Alphonso from Ratnagiri!
Selecting mangoes is an art. It should have the right smell which is a full fruity aroma and the right bit to place under the nose for a whiff is the stem end . It should yield to the touch very, very slightly. Some mangoes have a rich colour when ready moving from shades of green to yellow to peach to red. However colour is not such a good indication as many are artificially ripened with ethylene gas.I tend to go by the aroma more than colour. Some of the hapus looked lovely but didnt have the slightest aroma.
If not completely ripened mangoes can be kept in wrapped in newspaper for a couple of days or on hay. Mangoes can last up to ten days if kept in a cool place. They can also be refrigerated for some days, even though the skin will wrinkle the taste will still be good.
There was an exhibition of a myriad variety of mangoes not often seen in the market with exotic names and unusual shapes.Many of them were from areas close to Andhra Pradesh and their names gave clues as to their origins.
Laden with bags of fruit we staggered out of the festival knowing that by night few would be left.
Oh for the days when mangoes were delivered home by the cartload. and a family could wade through basketfuls without a thought of leaner days and less fruitful seasons.