Mango’s sweet taste is finding a place in western markets

Indian mango pulp

Mangoes are about 50% of the total tropical fruits grown worldwide. Since 1990, the market for mango pulp grew exponentially which is expected to continue. India is the leader among major mango growers with widely recognized variety of mangoes (primarily Alphonso, Totapuri and Kesar) being used in the manufacturing of pulp.

India accounts for contributing approximately 67 percent of the total world export when it comes to processed mango product. That is almost half of the world production of mangoes. The bulk of this share goes to Middle East followed by Southeast Asia and North America.

Mango pulp is used as a major food ingredient in the making of mango juice, nectars, juice blends, dairy, bakery, baby food manufacturing, ice-creams etc. However, in recent years the popularity of mango has spread to the western markets with consumers showing interest in the taste. The US juice industry and fresh market has shown consistent interest in both fresh mango and its processed products. The US juice industry has been making more and more use of mango pulp in its orange juice blends.

The popularity for mango in the US market can be attributed to two reasons. Firstly, mango is new for the US consumers, who have begun to develop a taste for it. Secondly, the US orange juice industry has been blending mango pulp for it natural sweet content that balances the acidity in orange juice. The most widely consumed fruit juice in the US is orange. And because of this widespread popularity of orange juice, its annual demand crosses approximately 500,000 MT. If one goes by the estimates, then the demand for the mango pulp used in this blending process in the coming years will only going to increase.

 

In the heart of India’s cashew processing industry

Indian cashew processing

If I were brought from my native place and rooted in a new setting…believe me I wouldn’t be happy. But it seems to be a different case with cashew nuts. They came to India with the Portuguese and mingled in the Indian culture so well that they are now considered a native crop of India.

The cashew loved their new abode so much that they went on to make India not only the largest producer, but also the processors of cashew nut. The fact might be boggling, but it’s true that about 60 percent of the cashews consumed globally are processed in India. With a sweet alluring taste, crisp crunch and tempting aftertaste – it is also easy to understand why this nut is the third largest consumed tree nut in the world.

The quest for cashew took me to the eastern and western coastal stretch of India, lined abundantly with cashew plantations. It was a little easy for me to understand India’s cashew processing industry, since our company has their very own cashew processing facility at Kollam, Kerala.

The 0.97 million hectors of land dedicated solely to cashew cultivations isn’t enough. To meet an insatiable demand of processed nut, India has to additionally import raw cashew nuts mostly from Eastern and Western Africa.

These imported nuts are processed and exported further to EU and United States where they are adapted according to the taste requirements of the market. The other major buyers of Indian cashew include Japan, UAE, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and Israel.

I was told that in India, all cashew business happens from Kollam which is a government approved ‘centre of cashew industry’. And it is truly the heart of cashew industry in India with over 80 percent of the total cashew processing and export in India takes place from here.

Honestly, the real joy for me during this entire journey was to see raw cashew get converted into a premium delicacy. Once converted into edible form, cashew becomes really delicious and expensive too. For cashew to reach its edible state it requires more-or-less 20 to 21 days. It’s a big process, labour intensive and involves many stages – the reason why cashews are expensive.

Post-harvest, the nuts are collected and sun dried for couple of days. The cashews are then steamed and shelled using cutting machines to extract kernels which are sorted according to quality. After this the kernels are passed through Borma dryers to remove moisture. The husk is removed from dried kernels which are then sent for peeling – this step defines the quality of cashew.

The kernels are then sorted and separated as per AFI (American Food Industry) standards into various kernel count, size and grades. Thereafter the kernels are sent for inspection once before passing through metal detectors, after which they are packed in cartons.

Food processing segment is the highest consumer of cashew nuts using them in the bakery, confectionary, ice-cream and chocolate industry. Better quality cashews means you get better prices in the international market. And the quality of cashew kernels in turn begins with the quality of raw nut.

The great Indian mango

The great Indian mango

Mango holds a cult value in India. Almost every state in India has a mango variety to offer and the natives are ferociously possessive about them. They will happily guide you on how to slice, dice, eat and enjoy mangoes or the kind of recepies you can make with it.

The mango season here starts in late March and peaks through June. Thereafter, mangoes begin to fade away from the market, leaving fans in want of more.

In a country having approximately 500 to 1000 mango cultivars, it is impossible to describe each of them. This time, I decided to visit the fruit market and see for myself the kind of mangoes picking up for this season.

I was fascinated to see mangoes in such huge quantities, stunned with so many shades. The entire fruit market was flooded with yellow, green and hints of sanguine. I once fancied the thought of relishing all the mangoes varieties available in the market and understand how taste differed.

I started picking mangoes of available varieties. Few of them I knew, while for others I carefully tagged each of them to keep track of the variety.

Honestly speaking, no matter how much I loved this treat, eating all these mangoes in day was beyond my reach. So I finished them over a span of week and observed the taste each time.

Alphonso was bit voluptuous with saffron-coloured pulp covered within sunshine yellow peel. Alphonso is truly ‘King of Mangoes’ with smooth, creamy taste and fibreless pulp. Thanks to Afonso de Albuquerque, a Portuguese nobleman who taught India the technique of grafting mango trees, we are now able to savour such extraordinary mango varieties.

Chaunsa could give Alphonso a run for money, but misses it chance nevertheless. Sher-Shah -Suri named his favorite mango ‘chausa’, to commemorate his win against Humayun at Chausa. This mango is not sliced, like other mangoes. The most traditional way of having Chaunsa is to suck the sweet, juicy pulp out of it.

Totapuri (‘tota’ means “parrot” in Hindi) just like Kesar and Alphonso is one of the main cultivars used for making mango pulp and other processed mango products. They have greenish outer skin and parrot like beak at the tip of the fruit. Not all mangoes taste sweet; Totapuri is an exception with piquant flavor. Its tangy taste and chewy texture tastes delicious with tempered seasoning of salt and chilli.

Dashehari or Dasheri is North India’s favourite mango. It is slightly bulgy and full of succulent sweet pulp that you can gulp down with each bite.  It is believed that Dasheri is the mother of all mango varieties in India that can be genetically traced to this very tree. Malihabad village in Uttar Pradesh is the largest producer of Dasheri mango.

Banganapalli from south India is Andhra Pradesh’s prime fibreless mango variety. It is a moderately juicy, firm and slightly oval shaped having flawlessly thin golden-yellow edible skin.

Kesar comes from Gujarat and is recognizable by golden coloured skin having green overtones. The tempting aroma is intense and hard to ignore. This mango has perfect blend of acidity and sweetness, making its taste unique.

Neelam is particularly famous in Hyderabad. It is small sized, oblong variety with tiny seed and a distinctively floral fragrance.

Peddarasalu or Rasapuri as known in Karnataka makes excellent variety for making mango juices and pulp. It tastes good, but it is very fibrous

Gulab Khas are enveloped in light yellow skin marked with a gorgeous blush. It grows extensively in Bihar and has a rare rosy flavor that refreshes your senses.

I would have loved to try more varieties, but I surrendered here. It was thrilling to be part of a season that brings with it a mania…an obsession among mango lovers.