Mangoes are juicy stone fruit (drupe) from numerous species of tropical trees belonging to the flowering plant genus Mangifera, cultivated mostly for their edible fruit. The majority of these species are found in nature as wild mangoes. The genus belongs to the cashew family Anacardiaceae. Mangoes are native to South Asia, from where the “common mango” or “Indian mango”, Mangifera indica, has been distributed worldwide to become one of the most widely cultivated fruits in the tropics. Other Mangifera species (e.g. horse mango, Mangifera foetida) are also grown on a more localized basis.
It is the national fruit of India, Pakistan, and the Philippines, and the national tree of Bangladesh.
Mango trees grow to 35–40 m (115–131 ft) tall, with a crown radius of 10 m (33 ft). The trees are long-lived, as some specimens still fruit after 300 years. In deep soil, the taproot descends to a depth of 6 m (20 ft), with profuse, wide-spreading feeder roots; the tree also sends down many anchor roots, which penetrate several feet of soil. The leaves are evergreen, alternate, simple, 15–35 cm (5.9–13.8 in) long, and 6–16 cm (2.4–6.3 in) broad; when the leaves are young they are orange-pink, rapidly changing to a dark, glossy red, then dark green as they mature. The flowers are produced in terminal panicles 10–40 cm (3.9–15.7 in) long; each flower is small and white with five petals 5–10 mm (0.20–0.39 in) long, with a mild, sweet odor suggestive of lily of the valley. Over 400 varieties of mangoes are known, many of which ripen in summer, while some give double crop. The fruit takes three to six months to ripen.
The ripe fruit varies in size and color. Cultivars are variously yellow, orange, red, or green, and carry a single flat, oblong pit that can be fibrous or hairy on the surface, and which does not separate easily from the pulp. Ripe, unpeeled mangoes give off a distinctive resinous, sweet smell. Inside the pit 1–2 mm (0.039–0.079 in) thick is a thin lining covering a single seed, 4–7 cm (1.6–2.8 in) long. The seed contains the plant embryo. Mangoes have recalcitrant seeds; they do not survive freezing and drying.
The English word “mango” (plural “mangoes” or “mangos”) originated from the Malayalam word māṅṅa via Portuguese (also manga) during spice trade with Kerala in 1498. The word’s first recorded attestation in a European language was a text by Ludovico di Varthema in Italian in 1510, as manga; the first recorded occurrences in languages such as French and postclassical Latin appear to be translations from this Italian text. The origin of the “-o” ending in English is unclear. Mango is also mentioned by Hendrik van Rheede, the Dutch commander of Malabar (Northern Kerala) in his book Hortus Malabaricus, a compendium of the plants of economic and medical value in the Malabar, published in 1678. When mangoes were first imported to the American colonies in the 17th century, they had to be pickled because of lack of refrigeration. Other fruits were also pickled and came to be called “mangoes”, especially bell peppers, and by the 18th century, the word “mango” became a verb meaning “to pickle”. In Mandarin Chinese, mango is “芒果”, or “mángguǒ” in Pinyin. This is most likely a loanword from English.
Mangoes have been cultivated in South Asia for thousands of years and reached Southeast Asia between the fifth and fourth centuries BCE. By the 10th century CE, cultivation had begun in East Africa. The 14th-century Moroccan traveler Ibn Battuta reported it at Mogadishu. Cultivation came later to Brazil, Bermuda, the West Indies, and Mexico, where an appropriate climate allows its growth.
The mango is now cultivated in most frost-free tropical and warmer subtropical climates; almost half of the world’s mangoes are cultivated in India alone, with the second-largest source being China. Mangoes are also grown in Andalusia, Spain (mainly in Málaga province), as its coastal subtropical climate is one of the few places in mainland Europe that permits the growth of tropical plants and fruit trees. The Canary Islands are another notable Spanish producer of the fruit. Other cultivators include North America (in South Florida and California’s Coachella Valley), South and Central America, the Caribbean, Hawai’i, south, west, and central Africa, Australia, China, South Korea, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Southeast Asia. Though India is the largest producer of mangoes, it accounts for less than 1% of the international mango trade; India consumes most of its own production.
Many commercial cultivars are grafted on to the cold-hardy rootstock of Gomera-1 mango cultivar, originally from Cuba. Its root system is well adapted to a coastal Mediterranean climate. Many of the 1,000+ mango cultivars are easily cultivated using grafted saplings, ranging from the “turpentine mango” (named for its strong taste of turpentine) to the huevos de toro. Dwarf or semidwarf varieties serve as ornamental plants and can be grown in containers. A wide variety of diseases can afflict mangoes.