Kesar is one of the finest varieties of Indian mangoes and much sought-after in domestic and international markets. Marathwada Kesar mango finds its origin in the Valsad district of Gujarat though the famed Kesar mango was first cultivated in Junagadh district. Kesar mango has been cultivated in the Marathwada district for centuries. It has often been called as the ‘King of export’ as it is rated as the best Indian mango abroad.
Marathwada division comprises of the following districts of Aurangabad, Nanded, Parbhani, Latur, Beed, Hingoli, Jalna and Osmanabad. The Sahyadri and Satpura ranges traverse the Marathwada region that is bounded by the Vidarbha region on the north, Andhra Pradesh on the east and south-east, Karnataka on the south and Khandesh on the west.
The red and black soil (sometimes a mixture of laterite soil and black soil) found in this region that falls in the rain shadow area of the Sahyadri is suitable for the cultivation of this variety of mango. The unique sweetness of this mango is attributed to the weather that varies from dry to moderately extreme with low relative humidity for a large part of the year.
According to the locals, this particular type of mango can be grown in areas that have abundant rainfall as well as on lands prone to drought wherein the plant survives solely on the ground water found deep within the earth. It was observed by Sri Chakradhar Swami of the Mahanubhav sect that these plants will develop a taproot which will firmly position itself deep inside the earth when grown on drylands. This will enable it to survive years of drought. He advised his followers to plant this variety of mango in the Marathwada region.
The orchards that were planted sometime in the late 1200s on the instructions of Sri Chakradhar Swami are still flourishing in this region. Records state that Latur district accounts for 15 percent of the total area of Marathwada region under Kesar mango cultivation (roughly 17,473 hectares). The warm to hot dry summers and medium cool winters prevailing in this district yields the best quality mangoes. The state government has set up pre-cooling, grading, packaging and storage facilities in Latur to cater to the increasing export orders.
Marathwada Kesar mango is ready for harvesting after 15th May when it has reached about 70 to 80 percent maturation. Fruits are carefully harvested by hand using a local tool called zhela. Fruits are placed in crates and kept in a cool place away from direct sunlight and heat.
The saffron hued fruits are large in size and oval in shape. It has an excellent sugar/acid blend and contains a higher amount of TSS (24 °Brix) and therefore has the highest sweetness among all the varieties of indigenous mangoes.
The vibrant saffron colour, taste and yield of fruit that is 3 to 4 times higher than Alphonso mango makes it economically viable for the farmers and a favourite of the processing industries.
This fruit is rich in vitamins and minerals and sinfully sweet. Mango lassi made from this mango is extremely popular in South Asia. Ripe mangoes are used to make curries, juices, smoothies, ice cream, fruit pies, energy bars and others. Kesar mango flavoured soy milk is one of the most fast-moving value-added products developed from this mango. Ready to serve beverages and whey milk from Kesar mango are now being marketed abroad as a nutritive and delicious health drink.
This delightful native mango received the Geographical Indication Tag (GI) in 2016.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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