Mangoes inspire passion, particularly in India, which is home to hundreds of varieties of the fruit. They are celebrated in Indian music, poetry, and art; they are mentioned in Hindu and Buddhist religious texts as well as the Kama Sutra; and Indian expats will even pay hundreds of dollars for a single, air-freighted box of their favorite variety. But while the average red-skinned mango in the American grocery store is certainly pretty, it’s disappointingly bland and crunchy. This episode, we embark on a mango quest to discover how a mango should taste, why the American mango lost its flavor, and how it might just get it back. This is a story that involves a dentist from New Jersey, George W. Bush, and some Harley-Davidsons, as well as a full-on mango orgy—so listen in!
Our episode begins with an American student in London. Having tasted the aromatic, creamy flesh of an imported Alphonso mango at the luxury department store Harrods, the journalist Myles Karp resolved to never again settle for the insipid supermarket specimens of his American youth. But Indian mangoes, including the Alphonso, were simply not available in the United States: For years, it was forbidden to bring them into the country for quarantine reasons. To help us understand what we were missing, we called the mango obsessives Sohail Hashmi and Rhitu Chatterjee, who thrilled us with tales of all-day “mango orgies” in the orchards outside Delhi and exquisite dishes that showcase each variety’s unique charms.