Mango: An Indigenous Approach to Nutrition

By Ranjit K. Sahu and Dwiti Chandra Sahu

Mango, the Ayurvedic king of fruits, plays a very important role in the economy and nutrition in many parts of Odisha, especially in the tribal areas. With large swathes of mango trees, mostly of wild varieties, found in the deep forests of tribal areas of south western Odisha in the hilly districts of the KBK region, indigenous tribes over centuries have adopted methods for processing and storing mangoes, both for consumption as well for sale. Mangoes are a vital source of food for the tribal people and no part of the fruit goes to waste. Tribal people heavily depend on forest products to meet their needs and have thus, have innovated methods that are ecofriendly as well as cheap for postharvest (gathering) processing of mangoes. The summer season gives a great opportunity for them, in terms of forest fruits and berries, prominent among which is mango.  They sell the mangoes along with other forest products in the weekly markets to obtain currency to procure their commodities like food items (e.g.salt, oil, spices), clothes, and groceries.

 

                                                      Pic1. Mangoes Cut and Dried for preparation of Champeita

Wild plums, mangoes, jackfruits, dates, Jamun, Kusum, wild figs and many wild berries apart from cultivated fruits like guavas, oranges ripen during in summer.  The availability of dry hot days and the absence of agricultural operations has resulted in dependency of summertime for processing by the forest dwellers.

 Pic 2. Mangoes Cut and Dried for preparation of Champeita

Many local varieties of mangoes like Thuri, Kadali pheni, Dahipachidi, Sindurmundi, Mankada anguthi, Bada mundi, Sana mundi, Bara masi, Gudaveli, Dasari, Kala jira, Mahuhandi, Rangani, Maa pila and Rasuni among others are found in the  jungle with unique flavor and aroma..  The tribal people obtain mango pulp, peel, and kernels, and use those for nutrition and revenue.

A visit to the Railima village in Rayagada district demonstrated how the people have learnt to efficiently use mangoes. Every part of the fruit is used including the broken hard stone (endocarp), which is piled and allowed to decompose into a manure. This adds organic content to the soil. The products consumed as food are Champeita, Ambasadha (Aam papad) and mango kernel powder.

 Pic 3. A woman drying the mango pulp to prepare aampapad.

Tribal people collect mangoes and wash them in forest streams before bringing them home for storage or processing. They sort the mangoes based on their sizes and carve the mangoes into a flower shape with the help of knife. The pieces are dried on the patios by hanging from special wooden hangers in the sun (Photos 1,2). Sometimes, they try to dry the mango pieces on rope hangers which are made from a creeper (Lahi). The fruits are left to dry completely. Then, the carved petals are detached from the stone and piled to store or sell. This product is called “Champeita” in the local language and is sweet and/or sour. It can be eaten directly or spiced up with chili powder, cumin powder, black pepper powder, and salt for added flavor. Some people add sugarcane juice or cane sugar and water to make a refreshing drink which is toothsome.  People also make pickles using Champeita. The prevalent market rate of Champeita is Rs. 100-150 per kilogram in the local market, earning the tribal people some much needed cash.

After peeling the mangoes for Champeita purpose, the rest of mango stone with residual pulp is used  for obtaining the other products.  The mango stones are put in a pot/stone cup/wood cup and rinsed or ground well with help of the kutuni, a type of mortar and pestle made of wood pillar. The pulp is collected after rinsing and taken out and dried in layers over bamboo mats until a dry product about three inches thick is obtained.  This orange to dark brown sticky layered product (popularly known as aam papad in Northern India) is rolled, cut, and stored or packed for sale or consumption. Locally it is known as “Ambasadha” (Photo 3).  It can be eaten directly or processed like Champeita. The cost of this product is Rs 60-80 per kg in the local market. After the preparation of Champeita and Ambasada the people collect the mango kernels by breaking the shells and packing them into cloth bundles. These bundles are laid in streams for two to three days to eliminate the bitter principles. The kernels are dried and mashed or ground to a powder, which is used  to prepare gruel or puddings .

Apart from this, mango leaves are used in rituals and ceremonies. Mango trees sustain a variety of wildlife from insects (e.g. red ants) to birds, reptiles, and amphibians contributing to the health of the ecosystem. Often the trees are a source of fuel as well. Despite being of such importance, the conservation of wild trees has been largely ignored. The introduction of high yielding and commercial varieties of mangoes in these tracts has also led to further neglect of the existing wild varieties that bear fruits of inferior quality in terms of on, promotion and propagation of these postharvest processing, marketability, and storage compared to commercially propagated varieties.  Most of the trees require very little input in terms of fertilizers or insecticides and maintenance compared to cultivated trees and form a vital source of NTFPs. Mango, being a cross polluted crop, also requires a larger genetic pool for any future breeding and conservation programs as a counter measure to overcome the ill effects of  climate change.

Food poisoning due to consumption of mango kernel is not uncommon and since this is a vital source, technology needs to be developed so the tribal people can consume this without any side effects after proper processing. With rapid industrialization in these tracts and other developmental activities, trees are being lost without giving due consideration to alternative methods to prevent them from being axed. It is, thus, important to create an awareness for protection, propagation, and promotion of these varieties in the current scenario of climate change.

Author Bio:

 Dr. Ranjit K. Sahu is a Research professional and freelance writer with over a decade of experience in biomedical research , currently located in Virginia, USA. His interests include education, environment, sustainability and health care in the underprivileged regions of the world.

Dwiti Chandra Sahu is a teacher in the Ashram school situated in Bhakurguda (Rayagada Distrct of Odisha). Apart from his routine job as a teacher, he is also involved in many social activities. He is a well-known columnist among readers of Odia newspapers and is popular in the Odia literary circle for his unique style of writing short stories.

7 Comments

  1. Surendra Pattnayak says:

    Dear Dr. Sahu&Mr Sahu,
    Your article is a beautifully narrated article with full of information. It will be helpful to others to get knowledge about the prcessing and preservation of mango.
    Thanks to both of you for your nice efforts.
    Processing of ambula and nutritional value of mango and its products can be added to the article.

  2. Mitu patnaik says:

    Verygood information about the king of fruits .Nut only used as fruit but also consumed as ambula,champeita,ampapad,ambasada etc.Thank u both for this valuable article.

  3. Minakshi (Minu) says:

    Perfect description of Mango…!

  4. କାଶୀ ପ୍ରସାଦ ନାୟକ says:

    ବହୁତ ସୁନ୍ଦର ଵର୍ଣ୍ଣନା ।ଧନ୍ୟଵାଦ ।

  5. Really its written with deep research and primary investigation in the tribal pocket of odisha ,meaningful one.

  6. Hari Sharana Dash,Founder AEMS Padmapur says:

    Collection, writing &language- absolute in all respect.

  7. Hari Sharana Dash,Founder AEMS Padmapur says:

    Collection, writing &language- absolute in all respect.

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