The concept of summer vacations in a child’s life is an eternal memory. Apart from the joy of not going to school and not having to do homework, summer vacations bring back one of our long lost friends – mangoes. Probably due to the timing of its arrival or probably due to its heavenly taste, mangoes are strongly connected with good times and nostalgia. With the first pack of the raw green tangy mangoes to the ones that are fully ripe and sweet, nothing could beat the joy of eating mangoes. I used to compete with my siblings for – who gets the seed or who sucks it harder to turn the seed completely white or who plucks the maximum number of mangoes from the nearby mango orchard! Waiting for mangoes to arrive each season is an immense pleasure. I was fascinated by how they came covered in layers of hay in a carton box and how they formed a part of our diet for 3 months. And it wasn’t just about the fruit but also about various delicacies made from mangoes that left a lasting impression on us.
I remember how awed I was when I first saw my grandma and other ladies of the house placing raw mango pieces on a sheet on the terrace to dry under the sun. These were then marinated with different spices to make ‘Aam ka achaar’ (mango pickle) and then filled in large jars. The pickles were made in a plethora of tastes – tangy, sweet and spicy. The whole process involved not just making the pickle but a lot of gossiping, laughter, and togetherness. And how we picked up the mango pieces from the sheet when the ladies weren’t noticing, ran and hid someplace not to get caught while everyone wondered where the slices disappeared.
Another speciality of my mother’s cooking skills was ‘Aam Panna’ where she used to boil peeled raw mangoes, grind it and add salt, sugar and other spices to it. This was made in concentrated form and every time we craved for it, she used to mix a spoonful of concentrate with cold water and served us with snacks. It’s charred and tangy taste still lingers on the buds of my tongue as I think about it! If only those flavours could live as my memories have.
We ate the raw mango pieces with chilli powder and salt and savoured the ripe mangoes with its juices dripping down from our fingers. And how can I forget the sweet treats like mango juice, mango milkshake, and aam papad. I miss those childhood days when we organized mango-eating competitions and ran when the gardener saw us chucking stones at the mango trees.
My father brought different kinds of mangoes and I have probably tasted all the variants from different parts of India. The famous Alphonsos from Ratnagiri, Kesars from Gujarat and Langras and Dasheris from Uttar Pradesh were easily found and sold near our house. While the other variants like Badamis from Karnataka, Banganpallis from Andhra Pradesh and Totapuris from other parts of South India were brought by my relatives who used to visit us during summer vacation.
While the mangoes would only last for 3 months, their memories still linger around the back of my mind. I wish we were still innocent, running bare feet in the muddy mango orchards and eating mangoes till our stomachs hurt. I urge you to enjoy the mango season while it’s still here and share your mango memories with us in the comments section.