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by Barbara Simonsohn (Germany)
The homeland of the mango tree is India. Its Latin name is "Magnifera indica"the great fruit bearer. For the Indians, mangos have always been "food of the Gods," and for thousands of years they have known the mango tree as a divine plant. It is mentioned in Indian mythology, and in the Hindus Vedas, which is a scripture dating from 4000 years B.C. While resting in a mango tree shadow, Buddha was said to have praised the tree because of its longevity. In religious ceremonies all over India, the initiations are called "Pujas." In these ceremonies the mango blossoms have a holy meaning they symbolize abundance and divine sweetness. In many Indian temples, mangos are offered as gifts to the Gods. The Indians consider mangos to be the most delicious of all tropical fruits.
The birth of humanity happened in tropical zones, where apples and pears will not grow. Many believe that the "apple" Eve picked from the tree of recognition was either a mango or a papaya. (I suppose the durian would have been too heavy and thorny to seduce Adam). And it seems to me that we are still more adapted to sweet, tropical fruits, than to fruits of colder climates. I tested this theory by offering a ripe mango to my children when they were only one and two days old. As I held it in front of their little noses, their response was to start making suckle movements. When I did the same with an apple, nothing happened.
From India, mangos have conquered the whole tropical and subtropical world of America, Australia, South and Middle America, South and Central Africa, and the Philippines. Mangos even grow in the Mediterranean climate, and on the Canary Islands. It is estimated that India alone produces two thirds of the worlds mangos estimated to be 14 million tons. Mangos are the most popular fruit for the almost one-billion Indians, and for them, mangos are as common as apples are in the West.
Meanwhile, there are believed to be more than a thousand mango species. The "manga" variety is interesting because it is missing the fiber that can cling between the teeth. But I find the wild mangos to be much more delicious, especially the ones I tried growing on the Canary Islands, or on the north of Maui (a Hawaiian island). These wild mangos are much more aromatic. I found them to be a wonderful refreshment during my hikes in the mountains there. On Haiti, I planted hundreds of fruit trees, among them are many mango trees. There, in Jacmel, there are so many mangos during the mango season that the local people are fed up with them. The "Oeuvre Bienfaisante d´Haiti" (a non-profit organization focused on helping people in Haiti) is working to build a solar-powered machine for drying mangos, and selling the fruits to the inhabitants of the semi-arid, dry Northwest part of the country.
The mango tree often reaches up to 40-meters high, and the top may grow up to 10-meters wide. It is very beautiful, with shining, dark green leaves, and is appreciated in the tropics for casting a great, cool shadow. Mango trees grow quickly, and often reach 10-meters high in only six years. The little white blossoms emanate a pleasant, sweet fragrance, similar to lilies of the valley. The fruits are ripe in about 3- to 6-months depending on the species, and climate.
The mango fruit is oblong, and hangs from the tree on long stems. They can be up to 25-centimeters long, and weigh as much as 2-kilos. They have a green, green-yellow, yellow-red, or yellow-red-green color. For export, fruit that are 8- to 12-centimeters long are preferred. You can smell when a mango is ripe. Do not let the mango deceive you by its green color, there are a species that do not turn yellow or red when ripe. Overripe mangos have an intensive, unpleasant odor, and can taste similar to turpentine.
The center of a mango has a hard, big stone, or kernel. Some call the mango "bath tub fruit," since it is a good idea to eat them naked because the juicy flesh can cause spots on your clothes that you may not be able to get rid of. In the tropics, mangos are therefore often handed to children when they are naked. It is a great sensual feeling to sit on a tropical beach or in your home garden and eat a mango naked, as is described in a previous issue of JEAA (Issue #6 editor). It feels like being in paradise.. My children, when eating a mango, do not use a knife, but hold it above a sink to prevent a potential mess. With the new "free-stone" mangos that are sold in some stores, you do not have any problems with getting rid of the stone, but I prefer species that are less hybridized.
Mangos are packed with powerful and healthy nutrients. They are also soothing to the intestines, and easy to digest. So, if you have stomach problems or indigestion, try a mango. Mangos contain a lot of vitamin C and P, in combination with calcium. In India, mangos are used to stop bleeding, to strengthen the heart, and to benefit the brain.
Because of their high content of iron, mangos help build the blood, and can help people suffering from anemia, and are beneficial for women during pregnancy and menstruation. The potassium and magnesium content of mangos may help to relax muscle cramps, and fight acidosis. The potassium content of mangos also makes them ideal for those experiencing heart problems.
Mangos also contain a lot of vitamin A, B3, B5, B6, and E. Vitamin A, or beta-caroten, protects the skin, and the mucus membranes, helps the eyes, and stimulates the metabolism. Mangos are one of the richest natural sources of beta-caroten. Beta-caroten is a very effective and powerful antioxidant that fights free-radicals, and helps to prevent degenerative diseases. One mango supplies more than your daily need of beta-caroten. Mangos also contain Luteocanthin and Violoaxanthin. These B-vitamins strengthen the nervous system, help the body to deal with stress, and are partly responsible for pigmenting the skin and hair. Vitamin E is an antioxidant as well, and is often called the "vitamin of fertility."
Mangos are helpful in relieving stress because of their magnesium and potassium content, and are also good to elevate the spirit because they contain enzymes and tryptophan (an amino acid), the precursor of the "happiness hormone" serotonin. There are a lot of healthy enzymes in mangos, such as magneferin, katechol oxidase,and lactase, and these help the fruit to defend itself against insects. These enzymes also help stimulate our metabolism and purify the intestines. Hartwell claims in his book "Plants Against Cancer," that the phenols in mangos, such as quercetin, isoquercitrin, astragalin, fisetin, gall acid, and methylgallat, as well as the abundant enzymes, have healing and cancer-preventing capacities.
The amino acid content in mangos is noteworthy. Among these protein-builders is glutamin acid, which is an ideal nutrient for the brain, and beneficial for concentration and memory. Like the avocado and persimmon, mangos contain a whole and balanced amino acid profile, including arginin, asparagin acid, histidin, isoleucin, lysin, phenylalalin, prolin, threonin, tyrosin and salin. These amino acids are used by the body to form proteins, to build the blood, and to diminish stress.
We get nourished from fresh fruits, such as mangos, not only physically, but also emotionally, and spiritually. By eating fresh fruits we can feel the generous love of nature. This can help to center us, and put us in tune with the energy of motherhood and caring. In India, mangos are regarded as a symbol of divine, unconditional love. They believe that it feeds and satisfies you on all levels of your being. Eating only mangos for a few days may bring you to experience what the Indians describe.
When purchasing mangos, look for those that have been organically-grown. It is especially important to seek out organically-grown items when dealing with tropical fruits. Although they are forbidden in America and Europe, poisons, such as DDT, are still in use in Third World countries. By importing food from these countries, we can get this poison back onto our tables. We also have to keep in mind that many people in Third World countries cannot read, and therefore many do not adhere to the safety instructions on the labels of artificial fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides. Every year, many people in underdeveloped countries die of exposure to farming chemicals.
You may eat mangos by themsleves, or mix them with papayas and pineapples for a delicious fruit salad, or juice them along with such fruits as kiwis and pineapples. Frozen chunks of mangos may be put through a Champion juicer to create mango ice cream. Dried mangos are also delicious. You can also soak dried mangos overnight, mix them with grated almonds, and form "bliss balls" by rolling them in sesame seeds or ground coconuts. But be careful about eating too many dried mangos, or you may need to spend a lot of time the next day close to a toilet.
All the people who think that we raw-vegans live a boring life probably do not know about mangos. I wish every reader could travel to "mango countries," where mango trees grow wild and abundantly. When you eat a sun-ripened mango, you taste heaven, and it feels like being in paradise.
The mango is indeed a divine fruit. Enjoy it as often as you can!
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