Ethylene is a small hydrocarbon gas that many fruits and vegetables releases when they begin the process of ripening. Mature fruits are sweeter, softer and palatable. This is a natural process without any human intervention, and hence it is safe. But this healthy natural equation changes once we started to pluck the unripe fruits (to extract more monetary benefits out of it) and then sprayed it with ethylene to accelerate the ripening process. This artificial ripening process ensure the cosmetic quality of fruits but the organoleptic qualities like smell, feel, flavour and taste of fruits are highly compromised. Though harmful effects of ethylene sprays on fruits are not yet fully assessed but it is still considered safe unlike another ripening agent called calcium carbide. The extra levels of ethylene however (who or what controls the amount of ethylene to be sprayed on fruits is another question), beyond the safe permissible limit for human consumption specially in bananas and tomatoes can result in toxicity, and that is probably the reason why many of us feel bloated after consuming bananas.
Calcium carbide is another ripening agent that is used in mangoes to ripen the fruits for many years. Calcium carbide releases acetylene that has toxic impurities and is carcinogenic in nature, acetylene produces heat from outside and changes the skin color of mangoes from green to yellow, but does not ripen the fruit . Hence, the taste, flavour and texture of the artificially ripened mangoes are no where matched to naturally ripened mangoes. Whereas the natural process involves plucking the mangoes in their variable matured stages and then stored in hay boxes to ripen the mangoes. As the mangoes begin to mature they releases ethylene that slowly breaks down the acid in the fruits, convert the starch into sugar and the skin assumes a uniform yellow color.
Though use of calcium carbide to ripen the mangoes or fruits is banned in India, but the question is how effective these measures are? Take for example the case of Magi noodles which clearly declares that it does not contain msg (mono sodium glutamate) on its packets but recently few Magi samples when tested by FSDA has found to contain mono sodium glutamate and lead (17 times higher) in excess of prescribed limit. Unlike in developed countries where it is a rule to declare each of the ingredients, prime or trace in the food, in India many chemicals goes under the blanket names of naturally flavouring substances, class II preservatives, enzyme enhancers and so on. And even though if the company declares like in the Magi case, how trustworthy these declarations are? Same with organic products.
The big question is what we are eating, fruits / foods or some weird sounding chemical compounds? Can we sue the company in India after consuming its toxic food products ? Unless some stringent food safety measures are taken, the only resolve remains now is to grow your own veggies or fruits. At least you will know what you are consuming.
So when Lalbagh in Bangalore declare that they are organizing a fruit mela to promote jack fruit and mangoes, I rushed there and picked a box of carbide free mangoes. Labels are written clearly and well-marked on the boxes, FSSAI approved but am still skeptical. Mangoes are real Alphonso (well there are cases of fake Alphonso too) being judged by my Mumbaikar husband, sweet and the skins are evenly yellowed without any patches of green.
With mangoes having such luxuriant texture and sweet flavour, only two things comes into my mind either to make aamras or this sweet and hot mango chutney or relish as you wish to call it.
For this recipe, you will need sweet and ripe mangoes of good quality like Alphonso or Kesar. Some like to combine it with apples and papaya too, with raisins, nuts and candied fruits, this sweet and hot mango chutney will make your summer lunches ravishingly flavorful.
- Ripe Mangoes (Alphonso or Kesar) : 2
- Ginger (minced) : 2 tbsp
- Raisins / Sultanas : ½ cup
- Dried red chillies (soaked in water) : 3-4
- Black peppercorns (crushed or whole) : 8-10
- Nigella / kalonji seeds : 1 tsp
- Roasted cumin powder : ½ tsp
- Roasted fennel seed powder : ½ tsp
- Roasted chilli powder : ½ tsp
- Jaggery powder : 3-4 tbsp or as per taste
- Black salt : a small pinch
- Lime juice : 1 tbsp
- Vegetable /olive oil : 1 tbsp
- Wash, peel and cut the mangoes into cubes.
- Finely chop the soaked dried red chillies.
- Heat the oil in a pan. Temper it with nigella seeds. Add the mangoes and saute it for few minutes.
- Add the minced ginger, mix it well and let it fry for couple of minutes.
- To this add the chopped red chillies, all the spices and mix it well.
- Lower the heat, cover and let it cook till the mangoes become little mushy.
- Add the raisins, jaggery and black salt.
- Cook the mangoes down to a sticky concoction.
- Stir in the lime juice, adjust the seasonings and let it cool.
- Serve the hot and sweet mango chutney as spread with sandwiches or as accompaniment with Indian breads.
- Store it in a sterilized jar and keep refrigerated upto two weeks.
Unlike the sweet green mango chutney which is so common in India especially in Bengali cuisine, this chutney from ripe mangoes brings a new twist of taste and the heat from the spices perfectly balances the robust flavour of ripe mangoes. Black peppercorns (crushed or whole depends upon individual heat tolerance levels and finely chopped red chilies are cooked with the ripe mangoes, high heat highlight the sweetness of the mangoes and range of other spices makes it a very flavourful chutney. Mangoes are naturally sweet but you will need to add some more sugar or other sweetener to improve the taste. So I have used jaggery or gur in Hindi ( a non-centrifugal cane sugar) which adds a new dimension of flavour and taste to this beautiful mango chutney.