This section is from the book "Manual Of Tropical And Subtropical Fruits", by Wilson Popenoe. Also available from Amazon: Manual Of Tropical And Subtropical Fruits.
The Ain-i-Akbari, an encyclopedic work written during the reign of Akbar (about 1590), contains a lengthy account of the mango. Akbar, it may be remembered, was the Mughal emperor who planted the Lakh Bagh at Darbhanga, and in other ways stimulated the cultivation of fruit-trees throughout northern India. Abu-1 Fazl-i-'Allami, author of the Ain (translated by Blochmann), writes:
"The Persians call this fruit Naghzak, as appears from a verse of Khusrau. This fruit is unrivalled in color, smell, and taste; and some of the gourmands of Turan and Iran place it above muskmelons and grapes. In shape it resembles an apricot, or a quince, or a pear, or a melon, and weighs even one ser and upwards. There are green, yellow, red, variegated, sweet and subacid mangos. The tree looks well, especially when young; it is larger than a nut tree, and its leaves resemble those of a willow, but are larger. The new leaves appear soon after the fall of the old ones in the autumn, and look green and yellow, orange, peach-colored, and bright red. The flower, which opens in the spring, resembles that of the vine, has a good smell, and looks very curious. . . . The fruit is generally taken down when unripe, and kept in a particular manner. Mangos ripened in this manner are much finer. They commence mostly to ripen during summer and are fit to be eaten during the rains; others commence in the rainy season and are ripe in the beginning of winter; the latter are called Bhadiyyah. Some trees bloom and yield fruit the whole year; but this is rare. Others commence to ripen, although they look unripe; they must be quickly taken down, else the sweetness would produce worms. Mangos are to be found everywhere in India, especially in Bengal, Gujrat, Malwah, Khandesh, and the Dekhan. They are rarer in the Panjab, where their cultivation has, however, increased since his Majesty made Lahor his capital. A young tree will bear fruit after four years. They also put milk and treacle around the tree, which makes the fruits sweeter. Some trees yield in one year a rich harvest, and less in the next; others yield for one year no fruit at all. . . ."
The name mango, by which this fruit is known to English-speaking as well as Spanish-speaking peoples, is derived from the Portuguese manga. According to Yule and Burnell, the Tamil name man-kay or man-gay is the original of the word, the Portuguese having formed manga from this when they settled in western India. Skeat traces the origin of the name to the Malayan manga, but other writers consider the latter to have been introduced into the Malay Archipelago from India. The name mango is used in German and Italian, while the Dutch have adopted manga or mangga, and the French form is mangue.
In the Malay Archipelago and in many parts of Polynesia mangos are plentiful. W. E. Safford l writes, "The mango tree is not well established in Guam. There are few trees on the Island, but these produce fruit of the finest quality. Guam mangos are large, sweet, fleshy, juicy, and almost entirely free from the fiber and flavor which so often characterize the fruit." Excellent mangos were formerly shipped from the French island of Tahiti to San Francisco. Many choice varieties have been planted in the Hawaiian Islands. J. E. Higgins has written a bulletin on mango culture in this region.
On the tropical coast of Africa, extending south to the Cape of Good Hope, and in Madagascar, mangos are common. The French island of Reunion is the original home of several varieties now cultivated in the West Indies and Florida.
In Queensland, Australia, attention has been given to the asexual propagation of this fruit, and a limited number of choice Indian varieties have been introduced.
In the Mediterranean region the species is not entirely successful. Trees are reported to have produced fruit in several localities, but nowhere have they become commonly grown. In Madeira and the Canary Islands they are more at home; Captain Cook, when on his first voyage of discovery, reported in 1768 that mangos grew almost spontaneously in Madeira. C. H. Gable, who has recently worked on the island, says there are now only a few trees to be found, but that these bear profusely.
The Portuguese are given the credit for bringing the mango to America. It is believed to have been first planted at Bahia, Brazil, at an uncertain date probably not earlier than 1700. Captain Cook found in 1768 that the fruit was produced in great abundance at Rio de Janeiro. In the West Indies it was first introduced at Barbados in 1742 or thereabouts, the "tree or its seed" having been brought from Rio de Janeiro. It did not reach Jamaica until 1782. Its introduction into the latter island is described by Bryan Edwards:1 "This plant, with several others, as well as different kinds of Seeds, were found on board a French ship (bound from the Isle de France for Hispaniola) taken by Captain Marshall of his Majesty's Ship Flora, one of Lord Rodney's Squadron, in June, 1782, and sent as a Prize to this island. By Captain Marshall, with Lord Rodney's approbation, the whole collection was deposited in Mr. East's garden, where they have been cultivated with great assiduity and success." Thirty-two years after its introduction, John Lunan stated that the mango had become one of the commonest fruit-trees of Jamaica.
1 Useful Plants of Guam.
It is said to have been introduced into Mexico at the same time as the coffee plant, early in the nineteenth century, the introducer having been D. Juan Antonio Gomez of Cordoba. It is evident that Mexico has received mangos from two sources; some from the West Indies, and others from the Philippines, brought by the Spanish galleons which traded in early times between Acapulco and Manila.
The cultivation of the mango under glass in Europe was attempted at an early day. A writer in Curtis' Botanical Magazine in 1850 says : "The mango is recorded to have been grown in the hothouses of this country at least 160 years ago, but it is only within the last twenty years that it has come into notice as a fruit capable of being brought to perfection in England. The first and, we believe, the most successful attempt was made by the late Earl of Powis, in his garden at Walcot, where he had a lofty hothouse 400 feet long and between 30 and 40 feet wide constructed for the cultivation of the mango and other rare and tropical fruits; but within these last few years we have known it to bear fruit in other gardens."
In the United States, cultivation of the mango is limited to southern Florida and southern California. It is believed the species was first introduced into the former state by Henry Perrine, who sent plants from Mexico to his grant of land below Miami in 1833. These trees, however, perished from neglect after Perrine's death, and many years passed before another introduction was made. According to P. J. Wester, the second and successful introduction was in 1861 or 1862, by Fletcher of Miami. The trees introduced in these early years were seedlings. In 1885 Rev. D. G. Watt of Pinellas made an attempt to introduce the choice grafted varieties of India. According to P. N. Reasoner,1 Watt obtained from Calcutta eight plants of the two best sorts, Bombay and Malda. "They were nearly three months on the passage, and when the case was opened five were dead; another died soon after, and the two remaining plants were starting nicely, when the freeze destroyed them entirely." In 1888 Herbert Beck of St. Petersburg obtained a shipment of thirty-five inarched trees from Calcutta. This shipment included the following varieties: "Bombay No. 23, Bombay No. 24, Chuckchokia, Arbuthnot, Gopalbhog, Singapore, and Alphonse." In the latter part of 1889 Beck reported to the Department of Agriculture that all but seven of the trees had died. Further details regarding this importation are lacking, but it is not believed that any of the trees lived to produce fruit. On November 1, 1889, the Division of Pomology at Washington received through Consul B. F. Farnham of Bombay, India, a shipment of six varieties, as follows: "Alphonse, Banchore, Banchore of Dhiren, Devarubria, Mulgoba, and Pirie." The trees were obtained from G. Marshall Woodrow, at Poona. After their arrival in this country they were forwarded to horticulturists on Lake Worth, Florida. Most of the trees succumbed to successive freezes, but in 1898 Elbridge Gale reported that one Alphonse sent to Brelsford Brothers was still alive, but was not doing well; and that of the five trees sent to himself only one, a Mulgoba, had survived. This tree began to bear in 1898, and is still productive, although it has not borne large crops in recent years. The superior quality of its fruit furnished the needed stimulus to the development of mango culture in this country, and considerable numbers of Mulgobas were soon propagated and planted along the lower east coast of Florida. Recently, numerous other Indian varieties have fruited in that state, some of them more valuable from a commercial standpoint than Mulgoba, so that the latter probably will not retain the prominent position which it has held. As regards California, the exact date at which the mango was first introduced is not known, but it is believed by F. Franceschi that it was first planted at Santa Barbara, between 1880 and 1885.
1 History of the West Indies, 1793.
Plate V. Left, inflorescence of the Alphonse mango; right, a Cuban mango-vender.
1 Division of Pomology, Bull. 1.