The number of different mango cultivars in India is estimated between 500 and 1,000: Describing all of these mangoes would be an impossible undertaking. Yet, 8 of the most popular cultivars are filled with stories of India’s history, culture and even trade problems. It’s a badge of pride to know the different varieties of mangoes, and one bestowed on too few of India’s residents.
Alphonso: Also known as hapoo, it’s easily one of the most beloved varieties in India and abroad. Rave about how much you love mangoes to any Indian and they’ll respond, “yes, but have you tried the alphonso?” This variety grows in Maharashtra, Gujarat and Karnataka. Its firm yet fiberless pulp ensures a smooth creamy mango while still maintaining its integrity when cut.
Dashehari: Incredibly, 80 percent of the mangos cultivated in the North of India can be traced back to the 200-year-old Dashehari trees located in the village bearing its namesake. In this regard, Dashehari mangoes are one of the “mother” mango varieties in the country. Apparently the first tree was planted when a wandering mango tradesman threw a variety onto the ground in a fit of rage after getting into a fight with the monk who housed him. The community in Malihabad takes every efforts to preserve the heritage of these fantastic trees. And rightfully so, as its pulp is sweet and succulent.
Kesar: one of the few varieties exported abroad. Kesars hail from Gujarat–their intense aroma serves as a siren song beckoning passerbies to take them home. Its acidity and sweetness is in perfect balance, though the fruit bears irregularly much to the dismay of farmers.
Langra: another variety that stirs great pride in Northern Indians. Its flesh is mildly fibrous and with a distinct turpentine taste. Langra also has a short season, lasting only from mid-July to the end of the month. Just as Dashehari mangos have a mother tree in Malihabad, a langra mother tree exists in Varanasi. This langra tree is believed to spawn many of India’s other mango varieties. The tree’s original owner was lame, and thus was born the name, “langra.”
Kishenbhog: This variety grows in North Bihar and sweet, but firm and fibrous. The fruit also plays a critical role in the gripping book, “Balchanwa.” A child recalls his father trespassing to take two kishenbhogs from an orchard. Ultimately the feudal owner of the mango tree lynches his father.
Himsagar: A variety grown in West Bengal but not very well-known outside of this region. It’s a thin-skinned cultivar with smooth, silky flesh and sweeter than most other varieties. The sugary pulp melts in the mouth. Himsagars come to season from mid June until the end of the month. An unfortunate short season for such a delectable variety.
Saroli/Bombay Green: A popular variety in North India and Pakistan. It’s one of the first mangoes to appear during the season. Sweet Bombay green mangos are packed with flavor.
Neelam: a consistent, large-yielding variety growing thoughout India and Pakistan: Hyderabad in particular is famous for this variety. Neelams come to the markets in May and last until the end of June. David Davidar romanticizes this cultivar in his book, “House of Blue Mangoes,” when the character Daniel proclaims, “There’s no question that the Chevathar Neelam is the greatest mango in the world. Now that we know that, we need to proclaim its glories far and wide.”