Every year from April to early June, connoisseurs flock to grocery stores in search of the Alphonso mango, a variety that’s touted to be the best kind of mango in the world. Considering it cost us $28 for a case of 12, it better be.
Little India’s Kohinoor Foods (1438 Gerrard St. E. at Coxwell) is where many Torontonians load up on cases of these mangos every year. The transaction is not unlike buying porn or an illegal handgun: Go up to the counter and ask for a case of them. The shopkeeper smirks, grabs a box from underneath the counter, and opens it for you to inspect. You pay, he puts the case in a grey plastic bag, and off you go. “Wait a few days for them to turn yellow,” he advises.
Grown in the Maharashtra and Gujarat countryside surrounding the city of Mumbai on the west coast of India, the Alphonso mango is prized for being particularly juicy, fragrant, and sweet with strong flowery notes similar to lavender as well as a darker flesh colour. They are so coveted that, for a while, fruit-loving Americans would drive up to Canada—including shops like Kohinoor—to buy them, because the states wouldn’t import them due to pest control standards. That ban was lifted in 2009 after then-president George Bush tried the fruit on a 2006 trip to India and became a fan.
And so did Grid staffers after a tasting of some of the more ripe mangoes in the box bought from Kohinoor. “It’s one of the best fruits I’ve had in a while,” says official Grid taste-tester and senior account manager Jamie Harju, who then took a whole mango back to her desk. “They are quite sweet and not as tart, and would taste amazing in a drink.”
“They are like the best mangoes ever. The colour, taste, texture, it’s all really good,” chimes in editorial intern Alisha Karim-Lalji. “Other ones aren’t as juicy and these aren’t as stringy.”
Associate editor and seldom mango masticator David Topping says that, even though he doesn’t like mangoes, he’ll eat these and, for $28 a case, he’ll buy one if he were having friends over.
The flowery aroma of the mango’s nectar lingers in the office long afterwards and the warmth radiating from the heart of the mango could still be felt in my hand. Alphonsos are a delectable, once-a-year treat but, with more than 1000 varieties of mangoes out there, we’ll have to do some more tastings for conclusive results.