Luscious, sweet, fragrant and seductive – I play out the mango season every year with Langras, Dasheris, Safedas, Chausas, Neelams, Alphonsos and all that the market has to offer, lingering over the individual flavour and character of each, reminded of all the different parts of the country where I once lived. Memories come flooding in, and the days are filled with fruit to eat, and so many different mango treats stretching well into the rains.

But with all these pedigreed choices before me, my heart always yearns for the tiny, wild mangoes from Coorg. They grow on towering trees that soar towards the sky so that you have to tilt your head back until your neck aches, to gaze up at the plump, miniature fruit that hang down, like some sort of enchanting and delicious decorations. Many of these enormous, solitary trees were historic and geographic landmarks, growing right outside ancestral homes. Some of them were almost mythical in character, like one prolific tree that has been supplying endless mangoes to the families of an entire village, for generations. Sweet, with just the right piquancy to startle your palate, we always looked forward to these early summer treats.

The summer heat in Coorg builds up, and settles in layers over the valleys. The sky is taut, and a metallic light spreads over houses, trees and coffee estates. Cicadas creak deafeningly, like some crazed, gigantic piece of machinery, running on and on. Rainstorms hover, trying to catch everyone by surprise, bursting suddenly over the landscape. And wild mangoes ripen.

At my husband’s family home, a wild mango tree grew at a turn in the road that led to the coffee estate. During the season, my mother-in-law and I would wander down once a day, to see whether it had decided to toss any of its ripe fruit down for us. Burst, ripe fruit lay scattered on the ground, scenting the air with sweetness mingled with spice. Many fruit survived the fall, though, and we would collect the offerings gratefully, and carry them back to the house, some for our kitchen, and some to share.

One of the most rewarding dishes made from these mangoes was mange mor pajji, best described as spicy-sweet curd chutney. Rounded little saffron-coloured fruit floated in a thick dressing of whipped curd, with cunning twists of garlic, green chilli and a bite of mustard, all hidden behind the sweet, slightly peppery flavour of the mangoes. This is a dish that I love with a passion, and on many occasions, I simply spoon it into a bowl, and eat it by itself at the end of a meal.

We would squeeze the skin of the mangoes gently, then peel them with our fingers, extracting every last drop of the juice to add to the mange mor pajji. It could be eaten with a Coorg Mutton Palav, rich in flavours, or Coorg Ghee Rice. The spicy-sweet, cool and creamy mixture complemented the rice perfectly, and at the end, you could sit immersed in your own thoughts, and suck on the seed in companionable silence.

Thank you for visiting this page. If you read something that you enjoy, or see an image that you like, please take a moment to write a response. Do look out for the recipes of all the food featured here in my upcoming cookbook.

Image Credits: Nithin Sagi
All Food Styling: Kaveri Ponnapa

Kaveri Ponnapa

Kaveri Ponnapa is an author and widely published independent writer on heritage, food and wine. She is the author of The Vanishing Kodavas, an acclaimed cultural study of the Kodava people, and a collection of Kodava poems, A Place Apart, Poems from Kodagu. Kaveri is an acknowledged authority on Kodava food traditions.

  1. Anita Poonawala says:

    Looks amazing – can’t wait to try this recipe. The combination of heritage food recipes and words that turn on our literary senses, is something only Kaveri Ponnapa can whip up.

    1. Kaveri Ponnapa says:

      Hello Anita, welcome to The Coorg Table! Thank you so much for your kind words – the recipe is truly delicious,do let me know how it turns out.Warm wishes, Kaveri.

  2. Bridget White-Kumar says:

    Amazing Kaveri! Your write up of the mango trees loaded with fruit and especially of your mum in law inspecting the tree everyday during the season for ripe mangoes brought back so many happy memories of my own dear mum doing the same in our huge garden in KGF. Tried out your recipe for the Mango Raita this morning and it tasted awesome. Thank you for sharing so many of your community’s wonderful dishes. God bless you in your endeavours in preserving these golden nuggets for posterity. Its sad that many of these old traditional recipes and dishes are slowly being forgotten by the younger generation.

    1. Kaveri Ponnapa says:

      Bridget, I’m delighted that you enjoyed the mango raita, it really is one of the best, with such an unusual combination of flavours. Thank you so much for your encouragement – yes, a lot of community recipes and food traditions across the country are being lost as our lifestyles change. But it is actually possible to include them in our lives,with just a little effort, and that is what hope to share on these pages. Warm wishes, Kaveri.

  3. Sensuous2Spiritual says:

    I am smitten with your work of art. Haven’t been able to get my eyes off your posts.

    1. Kaveri Ponnapa says:

      Hello Sensuous2Spiritual, I don’t know how I missed you here, but thank you very much for your appreciation. I hope that you will try making the mango and curd combination, and continue to visit The Coorg Table. Best wishes. Kaveri

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