I got to interview actress and author Madhur Jaffrey at last year’s Mango Festival at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. I was working on a story for Under the Sun on WLRN about Dr. Richard Campbell (officially known as the senior curator of tropical fruit) and the Mango Festival.
Last year’s theme was the mangoes of India. India has been cultivating mangoes for thousands of years. As Dr. Campbell likes to say, Indians have “forgotten more about mangoes than we’ve ever learned.”
Here’s what Madhur Jaffrey had to say at the 2010 Mango Festival:
“I’m here at the mango festival because I’m trying to promote good mangoes in America. When I first came to this country about forty years ago, there was nothing I could call a good mango. Things have improved greatly and good mangoes are coming in, but they can be even better and that’s what I’m trying to promote.
“I have seen how far mangoes have come since I first came to this country and they are far superior to what they were. What we need now is to get enough good mangoes of many varieties. It’s like cheese—you don’t want to be left with one good cheese. You want at least ten or twelve or one hundred cheeses to choose from and that’s what I would like to happen with mangoes. That’s what I’m beginning to see, starting with Fairchild Gardens.”
Indian mangoes were banned in the United States until 2006 when President George W. Bush made a trade agreement with India . They started arriving in 2007, after being irradiated to get rid of the weevils that were ostensibly the reason for the ban. Jaffrey celebrated the lifting of the ban in a New York Times editorial.
Mangoes have always been an integral part of Jaffrey’s life, as she writes in her memoir, Climbing the Mango Trees: A Memoir of Childhood in India.
You can listen to my Under the Sun story about Dr. Richard Campbell and the Mango Festival on the Under the Sun website.
The 19th Annual Mango Festival at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden is this weekend–July 9th and 10th. This year’s theme is the mangoes of Hawaii.