Mango Pickles – a need for taste or preservation for mangoes?

Day in and day out, each Indian adds flavour to his meals by including pickles, commonly known as achaar. But, ages back, was the pickle made to add variety to the meals or as a simple method of preserving fruits and vegetables??

In the era of old age, when people did not have access across the globe, the Indian farmers felt the need to preserve the extra stock of mangoes that grew in India. It came as a preservation method to avoid wastage of food for efficient food management.

Also, being a seasonal fruit, the discovery of preservation methods, gave the added advantage of availability of the fruit throughout the year, in the off seasons.

Mangoes are an Indian favourite and is known as the king of fruits! And we Indians convert this fruit into various other forms and enjoy it’s lavishness throughout the year! But now, let’s have a look at the different forms of pickled mangoes and the science behind each.

Today, since pickling has become a business to earn extra profits, Special varieties of mangoes are picked specially for the purpose of pickling. Usually all the mango pickles are made of raw mangoes since they prove to be tangy and sour to taste and make very good pickles.

1. Sookhi kaeri (dried mango pickle): The technique used here for preservation is sun drying. The pieces of mango is sun dried for several days till it is completely devoid of moisture and feels a little hard, dry and the edges feel crispy. This reduces the water activity in the mango and hence the micro organisms fail to thrive in that environment. Also, the enzymes present in the mango itself requires a certain amount of moisture or water activity for it to function. As a result the mango is preserved for several months. It is then spiced with salt, turmeric, whole jeera, etc. to make it tasty!

2. Murabba and Khaman (both are varieties of sweet mango pickle): another technique used to preserve mangoes is to use sugar. When sugar is added to the mangoes, in the form of a sugar syrup, the sugar being hygroscopic, competes with the enzymes and micro organisms for the moisture. As a result, the organisms and enzymes cannot function according to their roles and hence, sugar acts as a preservative.
Due to high osmotic pressure, the water from the organisms is drawn out resulting in its death. As a result the pathogenic or spoilage bacteria are unable to survive in that osmotic pressure. Hence the mangoes are preserved. However, Indians being sweet lovers, find these forms of pickling extremely tempting. They pair it with theplas, parathas, etc., and enjoy it’s flavour.

3. Methia kaeri (fenugreek mangoes): The bitter phenolic compounds present in the fenugreek seeds are probably responsible for the preservative effect. However, studies need to be carried out with regards to this. Hence, nothing can be said for sure.

But a sure reason is use of oils in all the other mango pickles. Be it mixed mango pickle or fenugreek or woth any other ingredient. The oil cut down the air supply, and therefore the oxygen supply to the spoilage and pathogenic bacteria. So they fail to thrive. This is also the reason why our grandmothers used to fill a layer of oil over the pickles in the bottles and jars. Today as we become health conscious and start to add less and less oil to pickles, have you noticed that the topmost layer of the pickle often seems to be covered with fungi?

Why?

Simply because that’s where they receive their nutrition plus air to thrive and spoil the pickle.

So next time when you ask your moms to add less oil, think again. You might just be wasting a lot of her efforts in the long run!

4. Sour Mango pickle: we all know that sour would mean the presence of excess acids. Now these acids are definitely not too harmful for us, but they are definitely harmful for the toxic bacteria and fungi. These thrive in an optimum pH of around 6.5-7 which is almost neutral. While the pH of these pickles is less than 4.6 which is acidic. The raw mangoes and lime, naturally lower the pH of the food product that kills the micro organisms.

5. Salt: The very 1st step in almost all pickle recipes is addition of salt to the raw mangoes, or immersing them into a brine solution (a mixture of water and salt)!

Why?

Because salt absorbs water from the foods and makes it too dry. This prevents the growth of microbes in the food and hence preserves the food.

Here I’ve listed various ways of preserving Mangoes and the science that stands firm behind it. However there are more ways and more secrets behind the pickles. Keep reading my blog for them.

So, next when you are wondering about how can you extend the pleasure of eating mangoes, follow these principles. Your taste buds will surely thank you for it!!

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Published by

Anvi Damani

M. Sc in food science and Nutrition.

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