Mangoes belong to the genus Mangifera, consisting of numerous species of tropical fruiting trees in the flowering plant family Anacardiaceae. The mango is indigenous to the Indian Subcontinent. Cultivated in many tropical regions and distributed widely in the world, mango is one of the most extensively exploited fruits for food, juice, flavor, fragrance and color, making it a common ingredient in new functional foods often called superfruits. Its leaves are ritually used as floral decorations at weddings and religious ceremonies.
Mango trees (Mangifera indica L.) reach 35–40 m in height, with a crown radius of 10 m. The tree is long-lived with some specimens known to be over 300 years old and still fruiting. In deep soil, the taproot descends to a depth of 20 feet, and the profuse, wide-spreading feeder roots also send down many anchor roots which penetrate for several feet. The leaves are evergreen, alternate, simple, 15–35 cm long and 6–16 cm 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 long; each flower is small and white with five petals 5–10 mm long, with a mild sweet odor suggestive of lily of the valley. The fruit takes from three to six months to ripen.
The ripe fruit is variable in size and color, and may be yellow, orange, red or green when ripe, depending on the cultivar. When ripe, the unpeeled fruit gives off a distinctive resinous sweet smell. In its center is a single flat oblong seed that can be fibrous or hairy on the surface, depending on the cultivar. Inside the seed coat 1–2 mm thick is a thin lining covering a single embryo, 4–7 cm long, 3–4 cm wide, and 1 cm thick.
Mangoes have been cultivated in the Indian subcontinent for thousands of years and reached East Asia between the 5th-4th century BC. By the 10th century AD, they were transported to East Africa and subsequently introduced to Brazil, West Indies and Mexico, where, climate allows its appropriate growth. The 14th century Muslim traveler, Ibn Battuta, reported it at Mogadishu. Mango is now cultivated as a fruit tree in frost-free tropical and warmer subtropical climates like that of the Indian subcontinent; nearly half of the world’s mangoes are cultivated in India alone.
Other regions where the mango is cultivated include North, South and Central America, the Caribbean, south, west and central Africa, Australia, China, Pakistan and Southeast Asia.
Mango is rich in a variety of phytochemicals and nutrients that qualify it as a model “Superfruit”, a term used to highlight the potential health value of certain edible fruits. The fruit is high in prebiotic dietary fiber, vitamin C, polyphenols and provitamin A carotenoids.
Mangoes account for approximately fifty percent of all tropical fruits produced worldwide. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates worldwide production of mangoes at more than 23 million tons in 2001. With 12 million tons produced annually (2002–3 data), India accounts for almost half of the world production, followed by China (3 million tons), Pakistan (2.25 million tons), Mexico (1.5 million tons) and Thailand (1.35 million tons). The aggregate production of 10 countries is responsible for roughly 80% of the entire world mango production.
The current world market is dominated by the cultivar Tommy Atkins, a seedling of Haden, which first fruited in 1940 in southern Florida, USA. Despite being initially rejected commercially by Florida researchers, Tommy Atkins is now a favorite worldwide. For example, 80% of mangoes in UK supermarkets are Tommy Atkins. Despite its fibrous flesh and fair taste, growers worldwide have embraced the cultivar for its exceptional production and disease resistance, the shelf-life of its fruit, their transportability as well as size and appealing color. Tommy Atkins is predominant in the USA as well, although other cultivars, such Kent, Keitt, the Haitian grown Madame Francis and the Mexican grown Champagne are widely available.