The mention of summer brings up a lot of images for many people. Long lazy sunny days, ubiquitous pool parties, fun beach outings and yearned-for cold treats are some of the most frequent and anticipated. Yet for the common Pakistani, the most familiar association with summers is not really the generally unwelcome sun or the slightly more pleasant activities. It is simply tons and tons of mangoes!
These little juicy bursts of taste and deliciousness are what we look forward to every time the hot summer months roll around to test our patience, skin tones and built-in resistance to heat. Even as we grieve the often times unbearable garmi and the frequent, free of charge saunas, we sure manage to find our silver lining. And it’s a damn good one at that!
The plump pieces of fruit with the perfect sunny shade of yellow that you can suddenly find everywhere here come June are the saving grace of summers in Pakistan. These are practically devoured by even those who don’t typically like fruits. And the divine nectar that seeps out of these sweet pouches is enough to lure even the most hardcore of dieters into a full blown eating fest.
Mangoes are the kind of fruits that allow you to go all out and use your imagination to ensure the best possible consumer satisfaction. You can cut them right through the middle for your own two private cups of pulp begging to be dug into or filled up with ice cream for an added twist. Or you can always just suck the juice and mush right out of the fruit after chopping off one of the ends. But sometimes, just for the presentation of food and fake show of good manners, you tend to take a more civilized route and slice the golden-ish bits of heaven into well measured slices to serve on a royal platter of fruity goodness. Or you go a step further and dice them up nice and even to fill up a bowl you can access with a fork while you read your morning paper (or fan yourself with it to ward off the heat.) And of course, chunks of mangoes are also meant to top off your custards, cakes and frozen yogurt, and made into pickles. Because mangoes are a summer treat through and through, and should be treated as such!
They’re quite a healthy option too, being an excellent source of fiber, Vitamin A, C and B6. And after you’re done with the sweet feast, you can simply wash it all down with a cold glass or two of lassi; to supposedly negate all the binging and allow you to reach for a couple of more. Or you can simply blend the mangoes right into the milk for a hearty snack of thick and chilled shake if you’re not up for the messy eating. But whatever the way you choose to consume them, mangoes are an essential part of summer. If they haven’t hit your nearest food store or carts at the chowk yet, the season simply hasn’t started.
The absolute best part about our mangoes is that there isn’t just one kind sold around here. There is a wide variety of the fruit available and grown in the country; each suited to the individual palate and all sets of taste buds. While mangoes are considered the King of the fruits, there’s a particular kind that wears the crown within the family as well. Chaunsa is considered the best of the mangoes by virtue of its vibrant yellow hue, saccharine scent and the sweetest of mango flavors. Its main areas of cultivation are in Multan and Sahiwal, and the harvests ripen in June-July.
Anwar Ratol is a variety of Mangoes that is smaller in size than the average fruit but can arguably be declared as the sweetest in taste. It is grown mainly in Punjab, and remains a local favorite. Sindhri is a similar type to Chaunsa, and originates from the province of Sindh, in case you couldn’t guess. The Langra mango is also characteristically sweet and plump, and gives out a delicious smell when ripening.
But besides all that, if you ever want to know the true worth of these treasure troves of scrumptious fruity flesh, you should try going a summer or two without these Pakistani goodies grazing your fruit baskets and salads. And on top of that, if you want to learn some compassion, just remember that’s what most of the international community has to go through year after year. Summers without mangoes, isn’t that an outrage?!
It is one thing not to know what you’re missing out on, but when you’re a Pakistani abroad, the lack of these kinds of mangoes can drive you mad quicker than the Chinese water torture. And this plight of the Pakistani expats is what kick started the export of our superior fruit to the United States for the first time this year. USA is one of the biggest markets for mangoes with an annual demand of 200,000 tons, and Mexican, Indian and Australian varieties were widely imported. Pakistani mango exporters usually felt discouraged from this profitable market because of the requirement of irradiation to be undergone only in the expensive American facilities. A relatively cheaper irradiation center in Houston, however, has reduced the export costs and made the venture feasible this year.
Much to the delight of Pakistani’s and foreigners alike, the mangoes are now available in a number of cities in the USA. Two and a half kilogram packs of the fruit are currently going for $25, and the supplies are selling out as soon as they arrive.
The All Pakistan Fruit and Vegetable Exporters, Importers and Merchant Association (PFVA) have set a target of exporting 175,000 tons of mangoes worth $65 million for the year 2014. Europe usually receives 24,000 tons of mangoes from Pakistan annually but this year the number is expected to go down because of the stricter safety measures all food imports into the EU are being subjected to. Pakistan presently exports mangoes to around 27 countries including Britain, France, Germany, Norway, Holland, Canada, Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong, South Korea, Australia, Bangladesh, Malaysia, UAE, and some other counties in the Middle East.
If you want to be a generous giver this season, send your loved ones a fruit basket or two or three of ripe mangoes for the perfect summer gift. It is the one present you’re sure no one is going to want to return!