Tree to table

It has become a near-daily ritual to exchange photos of our food with the family. Strangely, now that we are physically distanced from each other, we know more about each others’ daily lives. After I shared the featured photo, an undistinguished apoos (Alphonso, so called by the Portuguese, after Afonse de Albuquerque), I was bombarded with photos of its better pedigreed cousins. Sad to say, our local vendor only has these unblushingly green skinned apoos. With the restrictions we have, the two of us are unwilling to try to finish a crate of six dozen which the better ones are packed into. As a result, it has been a year since we saw the beautiful rose-coloured Ratnagiri variety.

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On the other hand, I’ve never kept such a close watch on the friendly neighbourhood mango (Mangifera indica) tree before. Here is a record of the development of the mango from April 11 to May 17. I missed the first stage, the growth of the flowering stem and the initial budding. The earliest photo I have shows the opened flowers. Then, the mature stage of flowering, when some have already transitioned into fruits. Each inflorescence holds both male and hermaphroditic flowers, and only the latter develop into fruit. From the second and third photos you can see that most of the flowers on the inflorescence were male; few develop into fruits on each flowering stem. If this were a cosseted orchard tree, with enough nutrients and water poured around the roots, then most of these growing fruits would mature. In the wild, usually at best one fruit eventually remains on each flowering stem. The one you see in the fourth shot will drop off the tree in another month, unless a bird gets to it first.

Waiting for mangoes

From a window I can see a mango tree throwing a dense shadow at the junction of three paths near our flat. I’d been looking at it for a few days, noticing the dense clusters of flowers. The light was good now, so I took out my camera and tried to take photos. It is a little tricky because of the breeze; the branches keep moving in and out of the focal plane. I have nothing urgent to keep me running, so I wait and watch until the gusts die down a bit. This tree was planted more for shade than for the delicacy of the fruits which it bears in large quantities every year. So no one minds that the fruits are eaten by children around the complex before they ripen. This year I wonder whether they will get to them before the parakeets.

Today is the traditional new year in many parts of the country. The earliest mangoes have already come. The Family picked up a large badami a few days ago. “Why only one?” I asked. She was being nice to neighbours. There weren’t many, and she wanted to leave enough for others. I tasted a sliver, because she really enjoys her mangoes. She strung out the rest of it for two days. I took a photo of the look of bliss on her face as she ate a slice, to share with family and friends. Some of them in other parts of the city tell us of the apoos which they have already got. The people who deliver this every year may not come now, but we are waiting for the local fruit vendor to get some. This year international travel is not likely to restart before summer, so maybe I will be home through the mango season after many years, tasting the varieties as they keep coming, one after another, from now through July and into August.