The historically important Malda district is famous for its jute, mulberry plantations and wide range of mangoes. Some of the most exotic and delicious mangoes of India like Laxman Bhog, Khirsapati (Himsagar), Aswini and of course Fazli thrive in this stretch of land that runs along the banks of the Mahananda and Kalindi rivers.
In fact, one can ascertain that barring a small strip of land that is unsuitable for the cultivation of mangoes owing to the excessive proportion of sand in the soil, almost every other part of Malda district is under mango cultivation. There is nothing called off season in Malda with different varieties of mango making an appearance all year round. According to the locals, it starts off with Gopal Bhog and Brindaban followed by Langra, Khirsapati (Himsagar), Kishan Bhog, Kalapahar, Bombai and other smaller local varieties and finally the large Fazli. The last mango is Aswini which commands an astronomical price as it is the only mango available at that time.
Fazli also called as Fazli Babu derives its name from Fazal Bibi of Arapur village. The alluvial soil rich in organic matter and dry weather conditions found in this belt is conducive for the cultivation of mangoes. The indigenous varieties grown here have developed tremendous resistance to disease and pest over the years. However, the produce is severely affected when there is a flood and sudden drop in temperature.
The harvesting of Fazli mango is done when one or two fruits drop naturally from the plant and their specific gravity is assessed by dropping them into a bucket of water. If the specific gravity is between 1.01 to 1.02, it means that the fruits are ready to be plucked.
The mango picker, a long bamboo pole fitted with a shear at the distal end with a net underneath is used to pluck the mangoes. The fruits are kept in crates away from the sun and transported quickly to the packaging facilities. After the mangoes are sorted, the selected mangoes undergo the important process of de-sapping. They are thoroughly washed, cleaned, graded, waxed individually with the approved water wax, dried and packed in cartons.
The storage life of the fruits is about 11 days at ambient temperature. The fruit has an attractive light-yellow colour, is sweet to taste with a juicy yet firm flesh and a pleasant smell. The fibre in this variety of mango is less. This mango is quite large in size and weighty with the heaviest mango weighing about 700 g – 1500 g.
Slices of green mango are dried in the sun and sold across India. Aam sotto, a unique Bengali preparation made out of mango pulp and concentrated sugar solution which is then sun dried and packed is in great demand both in India and abroad. This is used to prepare various Bengali dishes and can be preserved for months. Condiments, jams and pickles made from the green mango are also very popular in the market.
The taste of Fazli is not something one can forget in a hurry. This immensely popular mango received the Geographical Indication Tag (GI) in 2008.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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