We head down to Rat­na­giri to savour the Alphonso!


A ten and a half hour road trip in a Bent­ley Mul­sanne Speed

IHATE SUM­MER. I HATE THE fact that ev­ery­thing just be­comes smoul­der­ing hot — the roads, the in­sides of cars, my tem­per, ev­ery­thing. Step out into the sun for a sec­ond and you’re go­ing to need your eleventh shower of the day. You wake up every morn­ing in a pool of your own sweat and don’t even make me start on the wa­ter short­age. The only good thing about this time of the year is that it her­alds the mon­soons. And man­goes.

The Mango Ghat

Ma­ha­rash­tra has ter­ri­ble roads. Well, ex­cept for the Mutha ghat head­ing up to Lavasa, which bik­ers around Pune and Mum­bai swear by. The rest of its road­ways are just ut­terly dis­mal. Or so I thought. Imag­ine my sur­prise when we turned off the Pune-Ban­ga­lore high­way at Karad (and the road is ab­so­lutely pa­thetic till Karad) on to beau­ti­ful in­roads through the Ma­ha­rash­trian coun­try­side. Now the Terrano’s sus­pen­sion is good, it han­dles bad roads with great com­po­sure and the 205mm ground clear­ance al­lows

as reg­u­la­tion over im­ports of or­ganic prod­ucts to the west has be­come a real has­sle. So in­stead, they process the man­goes and tin the pulp. These tins are ex­ported to the USA, Europe and even as far as Rus­sia and Ukraine!

The first thing you no­tice about the trees at the farm is how short they are. Mango trees can grow to scary sizes in the wild, but the ones on the plan­ta­tion don’t grow more than twen­ty­five feet high. That’s be­cause in­stead of plant­ing the trees in reg­u­lar soil, they blast holes in rocks, fill them up with soil and plant the trees in them. This way, the roots can’t dig in too deep and the trees re­main stumped. This sup­pos­edly en­hances the yield of the tree and makes sure the man­goes are easy to har­vest.

Most of the land on the plan­ta­tion is used to grow the fa­mous Alphonso man­goes, or Ha­pus, as the lo­cals call them. Why? Be­cause they are the most prof­itable, ob­vi­ously. Alphonso man­goes are sup­posed to be su­pe­rior to other man­goes when it comes to flavour and tex­ture and hence sell at a much higher rate and rake in much more profit than other man­goes. And at the end of the day, man­goes are a busi­ness for the guys out here.

Fruits and fish

Have you ever had cooked mango? Not in desserts and stuff. I mean prop­erly cooked man­goes in a sa­vory dish. I had never even imag­ined some­thing like this un­til I came to Aarti Din­ing in the heart of Rat­na­giri town. Turns out in sum­mer, when the mango season is in full swing, the Mal­va­nis cook up this mango curry that is to die for. They take ripe man­goes, boil them, skin them and dump them in a co­conut curry not too dif­fer­ent from a goan prawn curry. The spice of the curry mixes with the sweet­ness (or sour­ness) of the mango and ends up tast­ing rather

The Terrano doesn’t mind be­ing chucked around corners hard

in­ter­est­ing. And this is not a dish you can eat in po­lite com­pany. You’ve got to get in there with your hands, pick up the slip­pery mango orbs and dig in while the juice trick­les down your chin and arms, down to your el­bows. That’s the only way you can re­ally savour it.

Then there’s the fish. Rat­na­giri is a coastal town and seafood forms an in­te­gral part of their cui­sine. We man­aged to get some great fried fish at Ganeshgule beach, some 22km from the main town of Rat­na­giri. The pom­fret and king­fish were mar­i­nated in a turmeric base, cov­ered in semolina and then fried. That, along with some bhakri and sol kadhi, makes for a typ­i­cal, ev­ery­day Mal­vani meal.

The great thing about Rat­na­giri is that if you’re up to it, it is easy to make the re­turn trip in a day and that’s what our plan is. Be­fore we leave mango heaven though, there’s one thing that ab­so­lutely has to be done. We load up the Terrano’s 475-litre boot full of man­goes – the rel­a­tives will be happy.

As I trun­dled back to Pune, it be­gan to rain. The be­gin­ning of the end of mango season. Oh, well. I guess I’m go­ing to have to wait till next sum­mer for more man­goes but I know one thing for sure. I am an Aam Aadmi.

Right: This mango curry has quite an in­ter­est­ing com­bi­na­tion of flavours. Be­low: Who knew that there is a place named af­ter the mango!

Be­low: These tins get ex­ported all over the world. Bot­tom: Plenty of space for man­goes in the Terrano’s boot

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