Just about four days ago, I happened to glance at news in a reputed newspaper and I was shocked.
The news is that this year, the Alphonso mango boxes have already arrived from Konkan at the Mumbai Market and have received a price of Rupees Twenty-One Thousand & five hundred for each box of five dozens (Photo no. 1). Awessssome, ain’t it?
The date I am sitting to write this article today is February 9, 2020. In our organic farm in Ratnagiri District of the Konkan region, the Alphonso mango trees are just blossoming, and hardly on a couple of those tree you may notice the fine pea-sized mangoes appearing on a tree. No. 2-3). But there are mango boxes that have already made it to the Mumbai-Pune market. So, our mango garden is still three-and-a-half months behind.
As the news says, this mango, which has reached the market, is also almost two months late. Which means, this mango should have hit the market two months ago in December. What a progress of science related to agriculture and of course the human who is the inventor of this science!
And here we harvest our mangoes, grown with organic or natural methods, on the 10th or 12th of May. And then those take another week to be ready to be eaten, i.e on the 17-18th of May. How shameful? So late it is? At that time, the price of the average commercial mango box recedes to about Rs. One Thousand only. What a drop all the way down from twenty thousand rupees to just one thousand rupees? What a loss for commercial mango growers? Should they too change their mango production techiques? Don’t they want to earn thousands of rupees by growing the mango as quickly as possible and sending those to the market much before the real season starts? Of course, some of them must have got ‘inspired’ by reading the news already and must be preparing to achieve the early bird results? I am sure you hope so!
On the contrary, as per my childhood memories (which are only from the 80’s); mangoes were to be eaten only in the summer holidays i.e in the month of May. ‘Akshay Tritiya’ in the end of April month was supposed to be an auspicious occasion to have the 1st mango of the season. Then onwards in May, the mango aroma would fill almost every house. I am not referring to this as nostalgic memories or my love of the Marathi food culture, etc.… I want to remind you that the real mango season was in May. No, it still is. And exactly that’s why the mangoes in our organic farm can be harvested only in the month of May!
Today, however, the mango has become a ‘rich’ fruit savored almost from December to January, and no more it is just a summer fruit. Not only Ratnagiri, Devgad, but the mangoes from across Malawi in Africa or Gujarat and Karnataka race harder to reach the Mumbai-Pune market ASAP!
*And my dear consumer, it’s all for you! Because…*
Because, you can not be patient until May to taste this delicious fruit!
Because, you would love to get this mango all through the year!
Because, you well off to pay the price it calls for!
Because, you don’t even know why nature made this mango since thousands of millions of years, only in summer, and how that works for you, your health!
Because, you do not bother to know what the agro-science has done to get this mango to you much before the summer, and how it affects not just you but the planet!
Read on, only if this suits you. Otherwise, leave it here …
I know many of you may argue, “We never eat mangoes in January when its as expensive as ten or twenty thousand rupees, we only eat mangoes from March … that too, only for five to six thousand per box!”
Some will even accuse us of not accepting advancements in agricultural science, or us being jealous of the profits earned by those mango growers or, we don’t understand the business of farming!
Do you all really think that the ability to grow fruits and vegetables off the natural season is an achievement? Should it be termed as progress?
Before we find out the answer to this question we must try to understand why did nature create the mango in the peak of the summer. That obviously calls for the need to know what exactly does happen in a tree before it gets ready for the production in the summer.
You surely can not escape saying, “Why would I want to know how you grow the mango, I only mean to eat those. The mango growers should know all about it, not me!” Of course, the mango growers need to know most of it but unfortunately 80% of them don’t really know anything. This is unfortunate but true. In their views, they planted mango trees, watered them, applied ‘X’ fertilizers in ‘A’ month and applied ‘Y’ fertilizers in ‘B’ month, sprayed pesticides for pest infestation and that’s all. That’s all they know! The increasing numbers of the greedy but unaware consumers, the rush and pressures of the market and the misconceptions of the society about ‘successful farming’ lead the farmers in working blindly for the early yields.
Then the same mango gardener, especially the Hapus mango farmer in Konkan … is worried about the declining mango yields declining every year. He is now turning away from growing mangoes to any other business, or replacing the orchards with cashew plantation. While dreaming of an effortless yield fetching Rs. 150 per kilo of cashews, little does he know that such monoculture in near future would only bring it down to Rs. 50 per kg. So if you don’t see the coconut, nutmeg, pineapple, jamun trees in Konkan anymore but only cashew trees, don’t be surprised. Blame it on the decline of the mangoes…
It is high time to think about why is the mango production declining every year. Where and what is wrong with our mangoes.
*So much happens in the mango tree when it grows them*
Here in Konkan, the mango trees get the new shoots at the end of the monsoon, ie October. In the next two to three months, these pink coloured leaves grow to become dark green, mature leaves. That’s when these leaves and the tree, are ready for fresh photosynthesis. With photosynthesis, the tree receives various elements of food and energy from the sun. And at the same time, the roots of the tree accumulate a variety of food components from the ground that strengthens the tree to be able to produce food again. In order to the blossom of flowers to occur on the mango tree, the weather requires a difference of at least 10 to 12 degrees in the day and night temperature for 15 to 20 days; Which is usually around December end or January. With this kind of weather, the tree begins to blossom with flowers and sends around the fantastic fragrance. The flowers invite different types of insects, such as bees, butterflies, beetles, small birds, all come into contact with these flowers and the pollination takes place in late January or early February. At this point, the tiny mango fruits as tiny as a black pepper grain, are formed. The next two-and-a-half-month period of February to April is an important period for the mangoes to grow. All the food and energy obtained so far by the tree is used to grow the fruit. With that nourishment, the fruit grows into a raw green mango that you all know and love. By the months of March-April, the warm rather, hot summer days help the fruit to turn sweet. And that is all about the heat of the months. Now, the tree produces the glucose and the natural sugar in the fruit called ‘Fructose’ begins to saturate in the fruits. Along with fructose, an enzyme called ‘Ethylene’ is formed inside the fruit. The ‘Ethylene’ causes another ingredient in the fruit called ‘Pectin’ to dissolve, resulting in the mangoes to gradually become soft and juicy. At the same time, the visible difference in mango is that the skin color starts turning red from the stem… initially to red and then to yellowish orange.
Wait! The Mango is still not really eatable yet.
The heat from the atmosphere then causes the water content in the mango starts evaporating and the mango skin starts getting wrinkled. The reduced water content in proportion to the saturated fructose now, makes the mango much sweeter.
By then the first week of May has arrived! Now the mango is perfectly ready to be savored!!!
There is a phrase in Marathi language that says “Patients always results into sweet fruits”. Isn’ that true?
Now let’s see why a fruit such as mango which is so high with Fructose (Sugar), is created by nature only for summer. Once we understand the reason, you would never want to eat the mangoes except in the extreme summer. During summer, the need for sugar and glucose increases in of human body and even in other animals. The body also dehydrates more and faster resulting in an increased demand for liquids and sugar for energy. Therefore, eating such fruits during this period is the need of the season and is absolutely sensible. Even the fruits like watermelons that consist almost 90% of water and glucose, grow in the harsh summer and even in the desert regions. This is an excellent example of the beautiful system designed by nature for everyone. Wherever and whatever is needed, providing the right solutions at the right times is the law of nature. Is it any wise to go against the rules and eat fruits or vegetables that that are grown off-seasons, just for the sake of our greed and the cravings? Here’s another great example… In Konkan, the hottest period of summer is in April and May, while in northern Maharashtra or further north in Gujarat, it is a bit later in June. But the same summer occurs in July and even to the middle of August, as we move further north. And that’s why Konan gets the ‘Alphonso’ or ‘Payari’ of Konkan in May, The ‘Kesar’ variety of Northern Maharashtra or Gujarat appears in June and mangoes like ‘Dasheri’, ‘Chausa’ are a treat in July in Uttar Pradesh. So, what would be the point in eating those mangoes from outside of Maharashtra, while it rains here in Maharashtra in the months of June and July? Or vise versa? I don’t mean to say that one should not try a mango of another region ever at all. But wanting to eat mangoes coming from all over the country or around the world for almost 6-7 months of the year is surely where things go wrong! As a result of our stupidity and greed, we invite diseases like diabetes and even the serious ones like cancer but blame the fruit for it. That is exactly what today’s modern nutritionists and dieticians advise us to ‘Eat Seasonal and Eat Local’. Aren’t they directly or indirectly asking us to follow the laws of nature? Our grandparents though, never needed to be advised these matters ever. Because then growing food was not really a part of the industrialization of agriculture.
However today fruits like mango, watermelon, pineapple or vegetables like radish, cauliflower and carrot have become essential through the year. The production and supply of these all year long against the demand of billions of ignorant customers has become the basic necessity of the agribusiness. There is a life-threatening competition for earning the fastest and the maximum.
I dare calling it life-threatening as many chemicals, hormones, are used to grow mangoes 2-3 months in advance against nature’s rule, that result in the early flowering on trees just after the monsoon. Since these early but untimely flowers are more prone to the attack of pests, fungi, other diseases; spraying multiple rounds of fungicides and pesticides on them becomes a must till the mangoes are harvested (Photo no. 2). Importantly, the heat of the summer that activates the for natural sweetness and fructose saturation is missing completely during the off season growth. In the haste of harvesting early the mangoes are not ready with the sugar and ethylene preparation within them. So obviously the artificial ethylene needs to be used to ripen them faster. What would it be like to spend thousands of rupees for eating such a bland and unhealthy mango when your body does not even need it? Can’t you link all this to the health issues like early puberty, PCOD, Ulcer or even Cancer amongst the new and young generation?
The Mango growing community too, should note that all of this is closely related to their concern of the declining yields every year. With the constant and overuse of these chemicals, the trees are behaving like addict humans. Their need for the chemicals is only increasing every year. It is destroying the ecosystem inclusive of the micro and macro organisms of the soil in and around the orchards. The insects responsible for pollination are fleeing away dying due to the pesticides. All of it in totality is contributing to the downfall of the mango quality and the yield. Do you get it now?
I am sure everyone noticed the price of the mango box mentioned in the news. The amount of Rs. 21,500/- must have caught the attention of all the desperately waiting mango consumers, and even a lot of Mango Farmers. The important words that must have escaped the eyes are, ‘Due to changing weather’ …
The reason for this changing climate is the ‘haste’ the ‘RUSH’ … ‘We want it today, now’!
With all the due respect to your spending capacities, I request you to pay respect to your own money. Please do not ‘WASTE’ it on such ‘HASTE’. Wait a little, think carefully. Otherwise, the HASTE will WASTE everything!
And if you like these thoughts, go ahead; share it with the name and other details given below.
Farm of Happiness Agro Tourism Homestay
Phungus, Dist. Ratnagiri
Phone/Whatsapp : 7620775521
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