Perhaps the most eagerly-anticipated fruit export in years, boxes of Indian mangoes have started cropping up in a few city delis, after a 20-year ban. Most Americans have only tasted Mexican or Guatemalan mangoes from the supermarket, whose stringy flesh and faint sweetness pales by comparison. The FDA’s concern over pesticides used by Indian farmers halted the mango trade until George W Bush lifted the ban in 2006, as part of larger trade and nuclear cooperation agreements. Currently, only 2 of the 1500 varieties grown in India, which produces 50% of the world’s supply, are allowed in the US: the alphonso and the kesar. Admittances requires that they be treated with irradiation to eliminate seed weevils.
I tried an alphonso, fondly known as the king of fruits, after my snacking associate spotted some in a box at Dual Specialty Store, an Indian deli on First Avenue. The mango’s flesh was firm but more creamy than pulpy, and the outer layers had, in addition to an intense mango taste, notes of floral and spice. Towards the middle the mango turned sweeter, more honey-and-vanilla, dribbling juice. It was bar far the best mango I’d ever had.
So of course, it was back to Dual for more mangoes. I picked out two green ones, wrapped in styrofoam nets, hoping that they will ripen to golden yellow. Since they were an exorbitant $3.50 each, I also picked up a more reasonably-priced $1.50 Mexican mango, which was bigger and promisingly shaded vivid red and gold. Compared to the Alphonso it fell flat. There was no complexity, little flavor, and pulpy bits. The man at the counter said they were running low on the alphonsos, but they would be getting some kesars in soon (sure enough, the first sea shipment left Mumbai on June 12 and is due this week). And then, since mango season ends in June, and there are still few importers, there will likely be no more til next year. For now, Patel Brothers in Jackson Heights might be another likely source. Get them while you can, because mango fanatics will be snapping them up.
Dual Specialty Store
91 First Avenue between 5th st. and 6t st.