India’s countless varieties of mangoes are not known outside of their regions. To really appreciate them, you have to go there. If you do, you get so much more than the finest Indian mangoes. You can cut your friends short in the middle of an argument over the best mango varieties. We have enlisted several regional experts to bring you a list of mango hotspots in India. Use it to plan your summer, filling it with taste and sweetness.
Mumbai-Pune, Konkan, Maharashtra
The famous Alfonso; Photo by Yogesh More/ALAMY
Everyone has heard of Alphonso. No other variety attracts so much attention. Or cost that much. It is a pretty fruit, round and plump and orange. Its orange flesh is fragrant and firm and not very sweet. This is Alphonso’s trademark: its subtle blend of sweet and sour makes it a connoisseur’s favourite. Two districts in Maharashtra produce the best Alphonsos: Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg. Their best products arrive in the markets of Mumbai and Pune. The biggest name in his culture is Desai Bandhu Ambewala (desaibandhuambewale.com) in Ratnagiri. Devgad, near the town of Malvan which gave us Malvani cuisine, has several seaside resorts. (Also look for Pairi, Alphonso’s poorer, more flavorful cousin.)
Try: Konkan Nest Resort, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri. Nearby Attractions: Prachin Konkan Museum, Ganapatipule Temple, Malgund Beach, Jaigad Fort
The island shrine at Pandavaddo House on the island of Chorao, Mangoes of Goa and Mankurad (right)
Goa’s mango riches are not well known outside of the small coastal state. The orchards are small and the products are consumed locally. But if you visit Chorao Island near Old Goa, you will find several orchards with a selection of the popular Goan mango varieties. Mankurad has become a very popular variety in recent years. It is closely related to Alphonso but its flesh is sweeter, creamier and contains more fibre. There are several delicious varieties unknown outside of Goa, such as Fernandin and Hilario and Furtado. Production is on a small scale, so what you get depends on when you visit and the local market nearby.
Try: “The Island Sanctuary: A Village Secret” at Pandavaddo House on Chorao Island
Junagadh, Saurashtra, Gujarat
Junagadh Kesar Mango
Bollywood actress Parveen Babi was the only national treasure to come from here. The sweet orange flesh of the Kesar mango from Junagadh has inspired many Gujarati traders to take a long trip to the orchards around Junagadh. The flesh of Kesar is low in fiber, creamy enough to cut with a table knife, but not so creamy that it won’t yield the kind of runny juice that strikes Ras-Puri in the Gujarati palate. That is why it becomes very important to ask Gujarati rulers how they like to take their mango. Look for two regional favourites: Vanraj and Rajapuri.
Try: Anil Farmhouse Hotel near Sasan Gir, which has its own nursery, or try Mango Orchard Club & Resort in Vadodara (theangoorchard.in)
Vijaywada, Andhra Pradesh
Like the west coast, the east coast has several mango hotspots, from Pondicherry to Odisha, but no region produces and supplies as many mangoes across India as the coast of Andhra Pradesh. The traditional mango stronghold is Vijayawada. The wealth of riches available here includes the famous Benishan, called Safeda in the north. Its flesh is firm, pale and not very sweet. It is delicately scented and one of the most beautiful mangoes to behold. But Vijaywada is more famous for its fibrous and juicy varieties to suck. Their names are too many, most are too difficult for non-Telugu. Ask for Cherukurasala, which means sugarcane juice.
Try: Nunna, the largest mango market in Asia, often offers nearly 34 varieties of mangoes.
Bangalore-Kurnool-Chittoor, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh
Northwest of India’s IT capital are many commercial orchards, reaching as far as Hyderabad. This dry region produces Totapuri, the main ingredient of mango pulp that goes into most mango drinks. And a lot of Benishan, traded across the country. But the most famous and prized mango here is Imam Pasand, a large mango with firm, fiberless flesh and a subtle, fragrant taste. Prices remain high due to its low productivity. The region has its fair share of delicious mangoes to suck on. And new varieties like Amrapali and Mallika. Mulgoa is a round, firm favorite with excellent table flesh, alongside the red-colored Suvarnarekha.
Try: Held in May or early June, the month-long Mango Mela in Lalbagh of Bengaluru should not be missed
Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
Langras of Varanasi
The most famous name here is Langra, perhaps the most prized of the northern mangoes. Varanasi is known for a particularly delicate variety of Langra with very thin skin. It still hits the back of the throat like a good Langra should. But the flesh without fiber is very sweet. There is also the Doodhia Langra, whitish in color and smaller in size. Its kernel is so small that it yields a surprising amount of flesh. The region also produces several other popular varieties, such as Chausa, Mallika and Amrapali. Look for an uncommon variety called Gandhraj, which got its name from its strong smell. In small quantities, it is used to decorate condiments and jams.
Try: The Taj Nadesar Palace in Varanasi is surrounded by orchards and holds its own seasonal mango festival, featuring the best of Langra. (www.tajhotels.com)
Siblings in an orchard near Patna; Getty Images
The capital of Bihar sits in the middle of several traditional mango growing areas. To the east is Bhagalpur with its Zardalu, a variety with thin and delicate skin suitable for refined tables, as it is not very fibrous. To the north is Champaran, which has Zarda, a small, fleshy, fibrous and juicy mango. It is so delicate that it is rarely found in markets outside the region. To the northeast of the capital is Darbhanga, a traditional horticultural stronghold, with all the regional favorites and some unique juicy mangoes to suck on. West of Patna is the Digha region, famous for its Malda mangoes.
Try: A three-hour drive from Patna, Bihar’s Darbhanga is where Mughal Emperor Akbar planted one of the largest mango plantations in the country.
Malda, West Bengal
The sweet and strong Himsagar
Himsagar and Gulabkhas are the two West Bengal varieties known outside the state. They are the opposite of each other. Himsagar has a very sweet and strong turpentine taste which is not suitable for everyone, especially not people allergic to mango sap. It is one of the most unique mangoes from India. Gulabkhas are a smaller, more refined mango with a thin, red-colored skin and delicate flesh. West Bengal has many marvelous mango varieties unknown outside the region. This includes Kishanbhog and Maldah. To enjoy it, you have to travel north from Kolkata, all the way through Murshidabad to the mango powerhouse in Malda district. It produces the last mango of the season, the large and bulky Fazli.
Try: The Bengal Mango Utsav, a three-day festival held at the New Town Mela Festival in Kolkata around the beginning of June every year, usually has 400 varieties of mangoes.
Dasehri mangoes packed in crates in an orchard in Malihabad; Photo by Prashant Vishwanathan/Getty Images
The patronage of the nawabs of the great old city created the most famous name in the North Indian mango tradition: Malihabad. Between Lucknow and Malihabad, near Kakori, is a village called Dashehri. Here you can still see the 150-year-old parent tree from which all Dashehri mangoes come. The sweet blockbuster rivals the Langra and the Alphonso for popularity. Malihabad and surrounding areas produce very large Dashehris with flesh so firm it cuts like a cake. But if you ask people here, their favorite mango is Chausa, which is even sweeter and tastier. But it is not easy to find very good Chausa. The Safeda or Lucknowa is a smaller speckled mango that is a regional delicacy.
Try: Among the many mango festivals held here is the one at Kothi Mall near Malihabad. Organized by Sanatkada, it offers food and music, traditional fabrics and mangoes.
Western Uttar Pradesh
Only two new mango varieties have been successful across India: Amrapali and Mallika. Both came out of harapur in this region. Here you will hear claims that their Mango Dashehri is better than Malihabad’s now. This region also produces a lot of Bombay Green, a local favorite. But it was the village of Rataul in Baghpat that gained mango fame to rival Malihabad. The Rataul variety is small, low in fiber and so fragrant that it can be smelled from afar. A strain for the refined palate! The parent tree from which the variety originated died a few years ago. But the orchards here have dozens of varieties.
Try: Filmmaker and historian Sohail Hashmi organizes annual mango trips to Rataul orchards from Delhi. It’s an experience. Follow him on social media.