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A Fruitless Debate (a writer’s perspective on Alphonso)

Alphonso is grown in Devgad and our relation with Alphonso is the same as of a mother with her child! While Alphonso will always be closest to our hearts, we were pleased to read a writer’s perspective on it. Reproducing it for here in the service of our patrons!
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Oh to be in Mumbai, now that summer is here. This is the song on the lips of all those who once lived here but now reside somewhere else, for while the summer brings heat and humidity it also brings that most famous visitor to Mumbai — the Alphonso. The Alphonso, or hapus as it is locally called, is universally called the ‘King of Mangoes’ and anyone who has tasted it knows that this is not a hyperbolic tag-line invented by some smart alec from the advertising industry. This is the absolute truth.

A Fruitless Debate

So devoted are Mumbaikars to this fruit that they shed their reputed cosmopolitanism and switch to a jingoistic mode. Nothing — not Marine Drive, Bollywood or even Sachin Tendulkar — can evoke such hyper-chauvinism in a Mumbaiwallah (and he/she may have left the city years ago) as the Alphonso.

No one from the city will even countenance the possibility that other varieties of mango — safeda, langda, chausa, and several other strange-sounding names — come even close to the Alphonso in taste, texture and smooth elegance.

The ‘payri’ is considered acceptable, but only to make ‘aamrus’, a puree that is often eaten as part of the meal. Nevertheless, it cannot hope to aspire to a higher ranking and must know its place. The rest, of course, simply do not matter.

The Alphonso, probably the only mango in the country with a proper name, has the ability to bring people together. Families sit together and eat it with the requisite respect, in silence and stopping only to pick up another succulent slice. But it can also divide. I know of non-resident Mumbaikars married into other cities who have fought bitterly with their loved ones on this issue come summer.

A friend from Mumbai, whose Delhi-bred husband insisted she eat only the local variety, was contemplating filing a complaint about mental cruelty and incompatibility. It was only when a relative air-dashed from Mumbai with the requisite supplies of Alphonso that peace returned.

Indeed, flights out of Mumbai during summer are full of boxes of Alphonso being carried by friends and families. Luggage carousels in Delhi groan under the familiar yellow and red cartons that spread such a lovely aroma that the travails of just having hovered over the airport for half an hour are soon forgotten.

When former US President George Bush made a friendly gesture by allowing mangoes to be imported into the US, it was the Alphonso that was sent.

Every April families go into a huddle to get their hands on the best Alphonso’s and call up their regular suppliers. The first flush is usually expensive but prices settle down soon enough and then boxes upon boxes arrive in the house, all timed for ripening at scheduled intervals.

The season is a short one after all and no one wants to be caught short.

What is it about this noble fruit that makes it so sought after? Why do Mumbaikars, normally such a chilled-out lot and open to new ideas and influences, sneer at all other varieties and are ready to pick up a fight? I can go on and on about how wonderful it tastes, but frankly, I cannot bring myself to get into an argument.

The Alphonso is the Alphonso — that is it.

A simple statement of this fact on my Facebook page recently evoked thunderous reactions from my so-called friends, from the incredulous (‘You can’t be serious’) to the hysterical (‘langda, langda, langda’). One or two even threatened to unfriend me. But as Gandhiji taught all of us, the path to truth may be a thorny one, but you cannot waver.

So here it is, said baldly and truthfully once again — the Alphonso is the best mango in the universe.

(Sidharth Bhatia is a Mumbai-based writer. The views expressed by the author are personal)
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Published in Hindustan Times on Friday April 22, 2011

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Beware of Glossy Fruits!

Mangoes, the most sought after seasonal fruit in the summer, have arrived into markets in the southern districts of Tamil Nadu by the lorry load but corporation health official wave raised a note of caution saying the fruit may have been prematurely ripened with calcium carbide.

Industrial-grade calcium carbide may contain traces of deadly arsenic as also phosphorus and its use for ripening of fruit is illegal in India as it is in most countries.

Tirunelveli (in Tamil Nadu) city corporation food inspector Sankaralingam said five teams have been formed under his supervision to check the sales of the artificially ripened mangoes.

However, customers will be purchasing other summer fruits — jackfruit, watermelon and cucumber — at their own risk. Hariharan, former vice-principal of Thoothukudi Medical College Hospital, points out that most jackfruit, watermelon, and cucumber have oxytocin, which may cause stomach problems and neurotic complications.

The schedule H drug, oxytocin, is being administered to watermelon, jackfruit and cucumber plants to make the fruits much bigger and glossy, said the physician, who had treated around 10 patients with diarrhea, abdominal pain and giddiness and they all were reportedly affected by such problems after consuming jackfruit and watermelon.

Accepting the fact that watermelons, jackfruits, and cucumbers on sale have mostly been administered oxytocin, Mr. Sankaralingam said there was no concept of the quality test to check oxytocin contamination as it was injected directly into the roots of the plants.

(Note: Reproduced from Deccan Chronicle http://www.deccanchronicle.com/channels/lifestyle/health/beware-glossy-fruits-say-experts-098)

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Please Give Your Feedback!

We had sent our first consignment of 1000 dozens to Pune on 30th April, and all were taken away by 2nd May. Many people who came to collect their order, ended up taking more along or came back later to collect more. Some who had placed orders did not come to collect even after getting the email, SMS and/or calls from our side. We have classified such people and we will not process any orders from them henceforth unless they make an advance payment. Some came in without placing orders, and we did our best we could to provide them the fruit they needed.

We opened orders for the second and last time on May 5 and sent the last batch of Alphonso to Pune on May 8.

A request to all those who have taken mangoes from us. Please give us your feedback on our service, our fruits, our arrangement, etc and on whatever you want to tell us. Do send us your comments, praises, flowers, brickbats, ATM pin, images, etc whatever you wish!

We look forward to hearing from you!

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The Last Alphonso of Season 2011 Reaches Pune!

As promised, we have sent the last batch of Alphonso for Season 2011 to Pune today (7 May 2011). The order has reached the pick-up center, stacked up and ready to be picked up. This is the last Alphonso to go out to our patrons as we down the curtain on this season.

The monsoon is expected to be on time and we sincerely pray to the Nature God that it lays a great foundation for a great season 2012.

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Orders Closed, Alphonso Season 2011 Ends! Look forward to Season 2012!

 

The season for 2011 has ended and we have stopped accepting orders.
We are thankful to all our patrons who supported us
in this season which was the worst among all seasons.
Please see our blog post ‘What really went wrong?”.
 
We are delighted to hear back from our customers who wrote back their experiences after they bought our Alphonso. Please read their feedback here.
 
With vital and important learnings from this farmer-to-consumer initiative of DevgadMango.com, we are gearing up for a grand preparation for the 2012 season with lot of plans like Mango Bonds, Mango Festival, etc.
We need and request your support.
 
Please be friends with our Facebook Page,
and join us on our Google Group
so that we can interact round the year and help us get authentic Devgad Alphonso across to you.
 
Kindly leave your contact details below so that we can keep you updated on all developments at DevgadMango.com, and of course whenever we are ready to accept orders for Alphonso.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Orders Open for Second and Last Time This Season!

We had closed orders on 28th April to service the existing orders in hand. We sent these orders on April 30th and they were exhausted by 2nd May. We got encouraging feedback and request for more mangoes.

We are opening up orders for the second and last batch of Devgad Alphonso mango. The order page on our website has been opened up and you can register your orders. We would send these orders only to Pune. In Mumbai, we are keeping a stock at the center, while we are there at the Thane Amba Mahotsav for three more days!

We plan to send deliveries to Pune on Sunday 8 May at our pick up center. We are accepting orders for Grade A1, Grade 1, Grade 2 and Grade 3.

This is the last batch for this season, which has been the worst in recent years and we have explained in this blog post ‘What really went wrong?‘.

The DevgadMango.com initiative and the response and feedback we got from all of you gave us strength and new lease of life in this grim situation. We thank all of you for that.

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What Really Went Wrong?

We and our member farmers in Devgad (and all farmers in Konkan) were delighted at the start of this year (2011) on sight of our Alphonso trees. Riding on a twice-the-average bloom, a blanket of flowers had wrapped almost all Alphonso trees, so much that leaves were hardly visible. That gave us a hope of a decent crop, something we have been longing for five years.

However, by the start of March, the orchards in Devgad and Konkan wore a devastated look like brown, dried Alphonso flowers lay scattered on the ground or dangled lifelessly from the trees in an occasional breeze. Alphonso season normally starts in March and lasts through May or till the monsoon starts. This year Alphonso was nowhere to be seen in the market even till April end. Of course, there was some mango in the market being passed off as Alphonso.

Now as we take stock of what happened, we realized that we managed to get only 15-16% of the average production, inflicting a huge loss, for the fifth straight year.

But what really went wrong?

First, there were untimely rains in November and December. That is the flowering time of the Alphonso and it needs a cold temperature for bearing fruit. So the flowering took a hit. Then in January-February, there was a severe cold wave that gripped the country. That is the time when fruit-bearing starts, but because of the cold wave, the Alphonso trees got a shock and went into traumatic stress. Because of this stress, there was a forced or induced flowering of the trees, and trees got wrapped in a thick blanket of bloom.

Alphonso trees have two types of flowers — male, with anthers that produce spores and female, with ovaries that pollinate and become fruits. For optimal production, Alphonso trees need to have 14-15% of female flowers. However, with forced flowering, the percentage of female flowers dropped to 4%.  Also, the trees got tired as the nutrition was sucked up in the flowers.

For the female flowers to pollinate and fertilize, it needs a warmer temperature. However, with the cold wave, the fertilization was stalled and so the flowers did not fertilize to the fullest. Most of the bloom dried up and fell dead onto the ground.

After this suffering came to another deadly attack. A 1-3 mm long pest called Thrips is an enemy of the Alphonso. Farmers have been trying to keep it away from the trees using pesticides. However, the pesticide is very short in supply in the market. Adding insult to injury this year we found two new species of Thrips which scratch the tender fruit bud and there is no pesticide available against them. They scratch the skin of tender mango buds and thrive on the juice that oozes out. The fruit that grows out of these buds bears a discolored and disfigured skin, making it unmarketable.

Dr. Subhash Chavan, Associate Director Research, with the Maharashtra Government’s Konkan Agricultural University tells us that the University would likely develop a pesticide against these Thrips species by next year. Mr. Chavan heads research activities at eight fruit research centers of the University in Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg districts.

This season is now almost coming to an end and its season has been the worst in recent years! However, a silver lining in this dark cloud was our DevgadMango.com initiative which enabled us to give authentic Alphonso to patrons of the fruits. The response and feedback that we got from all of you have given us strength and new lease of life.

We deeply thank all of you for your support.

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Our Emails Being Marked As Spam. Please Join Google Group!

We send email updates on any developments at DevgadMango.com, like the start of accepting orders, dispatch of orders, etc. However, this giant called Google/Gmail has been marking them as SPAM, even though all emails are individually addressed. We regret many patrons missed our notification emails and also missed carrying home their orders.

We request our patrons to please join our Google Group so that you will not miss any notification from us. Please enter your email id in the Google Group registration form which you see on the right-hand top of this blog just below where you see this image.                                                                                                                  Join Google Group
You would then get an email from Google with a link, asking you to confirm your intention to join the group. Please click on that link and you will get included in the group and not miss any notification from us.

Also, we send notifications on SMS, but they also get blocked. Those who have registered in the Do-Not-Disturb registry do not get SMS from us. However, we are surprised that we get many marketing SMS even though our numbers are also in the Do-Not-Disturb registry. Then why do the SMS we send get blocked? Can anyone help us with working around this? How do we ensure that our SMS reach our patrons?

UPDATE AFTER SUGGESTION FROM PAVAN

Request all our patrons to please check the SPAM folders for emails from us. If you find them, if you have not emptied the SPAM already, please mark our email as ‘not spam’. Thanks!