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Alphonso (known as Hapoos हापूस in Marathi) is a seasonal mango cultivar that is considered as one of the best in terms of sweetness, richness and flavor. It has considerable shelf life of a week after it is ripe making it exportable. It is also one of the most expensive kinds of mango and is grown mainly in western India. It is a seasonal fruit with each mango weighing between 150g and 300g each. This variety of mango has a very short season of about two months from the end of March till end May when the monsoon sets in the Konkan Region.
The Alphonso Mango is named after Afonso de Albuquerque. This was an exquisite and expensive variety of mango, that he used to bring on his journeys to Goa. The locals took to calling it Aphoos in Konkani and in Gujarati and Maharashtra the pronunciation got further transformed to Hapoos. This variety then was taken to the region of Maharashtra, South & central Gujarat and other parts of India.
The southern district of Mahrashtra Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg including regions around the Dapoli and Devgad Talukas, the southern districts of Valsad and Navsari in Gujarat state are the main regions where this mango is grown.The quality of the produce differs from northern areas to the southern districts as a result of the climatic changes.In Gujarat and Maharashtra, the finest fruit comes from a narrow strip of about 20 km from the seashore along the Konkan coast. The Alphonso Mango does not grow out of a seed. If you plant the seed after eating the fruit, you will get a mango tree, but it will bear mango fruits of a different variety. The journey of this Mango begins as a small twig cut out from the mother plant.It is then grafted on to a stem that has grown out of a mango seed of a sturdy variety.Some times one twig is planted into a combination of two stems from two seeds.It is planted into a plastic bag and put under intensive care for the next four years.It is kept in the bag for some months and then planted into a tin-can until it grows to a height of about 5 feet till about the fourth year. Only three out of five survive till the fourth year. In the fourth year, the bags are cut out and the little tree is planted in the orchard. Only four out of five survive till the sixth year.Over the next three-four years, the tree needs good care, with regular pruning so that it grows sideways, equally all around.It starts bearing good fruit since the ninth year. Since its a grafted tree and well maintained, you have fruits hanging between 0 to 25 feet from the ground.The maturity of this mango is defined in India’s traditional ‘anna’ system of currency, where 16 annas make up a rupee. A ’16 anna Mango’ is a 100% mature mango. Alphonso fruits are harvested at 14 anna level of maturity, by expert harvesters, who have acquired, by experience, the skill of identifying mature fruits from distances that can go as much as 25 feet. The fruit is harvested using a tool called ‘zela’ in the local language. It is a loose nylon-net basket held by metal ring, and attached to a bamboo pole which has a sharp V-shaped cutting tool at the front of the ring.The harvester tugs at the zela in a specific and careful manner, which does not disturb other fruits held from the same branch, does not result in any pull for the branch and yet cuts the stem from which the fruit is held, ensuring that a significant part of the fruit stem is still intact with the fruit. The fruits are taken out, and laid into a crate and immediately moved into a cool, shady place so as to shield the fruits from sunlight and heat.Most farmers get the crates of harvested fruits directly to the co-operative society, where they are graded, sorted and the farmer is paid accordingly.During the sorting process, each fruit is manually checked for hit marks, bird fly stings, pest scrape marks, sap burns, and other anomalies. After sorting, the mangoes are graded according to their weights.The fruit is then finally dispatched to the end consumer through wholesale fruit markets. The Devgad Alphonso is also amongst the most expensive sub-breeds of Alphonso.
The Alphonso is generally referred to as 'Hapoos' throughout South Asia. Haapus is used to make sweets, candies and smoothies - Mango Milkshake, Mango Lassi (both smoothies), Aamba-Wadi (a somewhat chewy sweet), Aam-Ras (Mango pulp which is eaten with puris - an Indian Bread), Keri-no-Ras (Mango Pulp as known in Gujarati), Sakhar Amba (Marathi word for a home-made mango jelly/jam), Mango barfi (see Barfi), etc.
Non aerated Mango drinks like Frooti (Parle Agro Co.), Jumpin (Godrej Industries Ltd), Maaza (Coca Cola Co.), Dukes Mangola and Slice (PepsiCo Inc.) are very popular in India. Many other local brands are also available.
U.S. import ban removed
In April 2007, the United States lifted its ban on the import of Indian mangoes, including the Alphonso. The first batch of Alphonso mangoes arrived in the U.S. after an 18 year hiatus. However, the mangoes must be treated before entering the country in order to stop the introduction of non-native fruit flies, destructive fungi, and other pests that could cause great damage to American agriculture. Individuals cannot bring mangoes into the United States in luggage or ship them by mail.
- Allen J. Mango mania in Portland, Oregon, New York Times, May 10, 2006
- Black, Rosemary (2007-05-13). "Black R. Plump it up. Sweet, juicy mangoes are at their peak, with seasonal varieties ripe for the picking, New York Daily News, May 13, 2007". Nydailynews.com. Retrieved 2013-01-31.
- Subramanian, Sarmishta (May 5, 2010). "The king of mangoes". Macleans. Retrieved May 19, 2012.
- BBC News: India's much-loved Alphonso mango hit by poor weather
- The Economic Times: Vagaries of nature, rising input costs to kill the famed Alphonso mango crop
- The Guardian (Newsblog): Do you know Alphonso mango?
- DNA News: Cold delays Alphonso mango's arrival in Mumbai
- New York Times: Mango Mania in India