Friday, June 8, 2012

The Mango Showers of May: George Washington's Uppumanga!

Tiny tender green mangoes available in the Indian grocery stores from February. These are still available but would be slightly larger in size and would have developed a harder coat  around its 'stone' /the mango seed.

It was easier for George Washington to access Indian mangoes than hordes of 'yours truly's' from the sub-continent. However, GW got his mangoes pickled not blasted with radiation as it enters the US. 

Entering George Washington's Kitchen

We can trace the entry of people from India/sub-continent from the British Colonial  time,  to the maritime  workers who came through the western coast.  However...  Before the entry of early Punjabi  immigrants and ''chicken curries' from the sub-continent into the west coast...
Before the entry of smart, scientific and small groups of Indians working in  the exalted 'Sighyyence' field...
Before the wave of ambitious nerses, doctors and such... 
Before the wave of plentiful 'keyboard tappers and managers'...
Before the very ambitious Indian American's  courting favour with the highest echelons of American  power...
Way before the   carefully timed visit of  US Trade Representative, Susan Schwab in March 2007,  riding  the machismo of the Harley Davidson to wrangle Alphonso mangoes in return from the Indian Commerce Minister, Kamal Nath... 

Long before all this,the humble and zimble UppuManga  had achieved the favoured status to travel  with an English name, 'pickled mangoes', as an elite cargo to grace George Washington's table. :-)

Now, the claim that the Uppumanga traveled to grace the White House occupant's table is speculation.

  •  We do not know what kind of pickled mango boarded the ship from India 
  • We do not know what avatar graced one of the important dining spots in the newly independent America.

Historical trade routes and sources of mangoes would point towards the western coastal region of India. The mangoes might have come from anywhere from the coast of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Karnataka or Kerala.
Why Kerala? Why not Goa and/or the Konkan or any of the above?
  Portuguese India Coat Of Arms; Courtsey Wikipedia
When George Washington imported 'pickled mangoes' from India, the south-western coast was under the influence of  the Portuguese. They had officially 'discovered'  the trade route to access the  Black Gold of Malabar    and displaced the longtime Arab traders. By the 1700s the Portuguese  had to contend with the growing British presence  in India.   

The Portuguese had also introduced red chilli peppers in the subcontinent, thereby influencing the diverse cuisine of a sub-continent forever. Goan cuisine is heavily influenced by the use of spices introduced by the Portuguese. So why not the fiery hot pickles from this region?  Perhaps, it is more likely that when mangoes were introduced to America from India, they were pickled  in brine to survive the long voyage. Had red chilli peppers gained wide-spread usage in Indian cuisine? Mangoes-in-brine might have been more amenable to the American palate than those pickled in red chilli spicing.  Again, it might well go either way! 

When NPR aired this news item, one kept wishing that there was time to browse, read and research more on the food that was imported for the first president. And to visit this exhibition, Hoecakes and Hospitality: Cooking With Martha Washington,  
 on view until August 11, 2012. Several books focusing on the first couple's hospitality and dining habits have been published.  However  this exhibition provides a more extensive  view into the sources and access to ingredients, the Washington's had during the 1700s.

The Washingtons imported most of their beverages, spices and condiments from Asia, the Mediterranean and the West Indies. Among them, a pipe of wine ( approximately 126 gallons), 25 pounds of tea,  a bushel of almonds (roughly 50 pounds) and ....a pound of cayenne pepper!!!!

What did they use this cayenne pepper for? One would really like to know ! 

While this throws a ladle into the line of  pickled-speculation, in the best interests of the story told here, we will draw a briny line   towards the Malabar coast. So if the mangoes were pickled, chances are they would have been the older method of pickling that has existed in the Malabar coast,  mangoes in brine =Uppumanga. But then, I am partial as a Malayali!

Now, how many ambitious Malayalee's or for that matter, proud Indian American's  can claim that degree of closeness to an American President, past-or present, living or no more?!! :-D!

Mango in Brine: UppuManga: 
Uppu=Salt and Manga=Mango. Many versions of mango pickles exist in the mango growing regions of the sub-continent. However, Uppumanga  is quentessentially Malayali. It permeates the Malayali's consciousness through the social fabric, folklore and  the feudal ethos that existed in Kerala. Uppumanga deserves much more,  but this post has been delayed and has become way too long so here is the recipe for...


About 20 tiny, tender green mangoes, washed and cleaned 
About 6 tbsps of Salt 
4-5 cups of water [take as needed], 
2, 16 oz/pint clean sterilized jars 
Squares of clean cotton cloth  and thread to tie them [ optional] 
Boil the water,
Let it cool completely
Insert the cleaned mangoes in the jar
Pour 2 1/2 tbsps-3 tbsps of salt into each jar over the mangoes

Pour the cooled water until it covers the mangoes.

Cover with tight lid. 
Keep in a cool, dark place for 2 weeks.

Use as needed with clean, dry spoons.
The recipe goes to:


  1. I didn't know that our uppumanga already visited white house. Nice Article Shri. Brings lot of nostalgic memories.

  2. Wow..very delicious,love the yummy tangy flavor!!
    Thanx for linking it to the event,Awesome clicks too!!

    Ongoing Events at(Erivum Puliyum)-
    1. The Kerala Kitchen(June'12)

    2.EP Series-Basil OR Cardamom

  3. this looks fabulous thank you for linking to the event I will add the picture

  4. thank you for linking to the cooking with love aunt event
    the pickle looks fabulous lovely post
    I made lemon pickle a little similar I like to add uppumanga when we make pepper curry

  5. Thankyou Swathi, Julie and Akeela.
    We make that plain lemon pickle also; am interested in that pepper curry you mentioned. Have you posted that recipe?

  6. Awesome post, love the yummy tangy uppumanga.
    Glad to follow u!

  7. I cannot tell a lie.. I love the Indian mango pickle - do you think that is what GW said!. The pickled mango looks super!

  8. :-D! Radha, it might well be! I am curious about the cayenne pepper though. What did they use it for? Thanks Spice up the Curry.

  9. Tes images sont magnifiques. Bravo!! J'aime beaucoup.
    A bientôt

  10. Interesting story and awesome clicks..

  11. wow...great post ur excellent cliks
    btw..boiled eggs makes a irresistable combo with any spicy biryani..dat must be the reason of eggs hiding in all biryanis..:)
    Tasty Appetite

  12. Shri,
    You are a seasoned photographer.
    I love uppuma curry, pachadi ..everything made of this Zimble and humble product.:)

  13. Thanks Hema, Jay and Chitra...I miss Uppumanga and Kanji! :-)

  14. 1st time here.. I was completely wowed at your black & white photograph!!! Amazing clicks!! And I love the recipe. Can't wait to try it out!

  15. Interesting!!!.. loved ur photography dear...First time here:) very glad to be ur follower.. do visit and join my spacein ur free time:)

  16. Thanks Edible Entertainment, Rekha!

  17. Awesome post and innovative pics... Really superb.. :)

  18. Your pictures are stunning! I would love to try mango pickle!

  19. Hi Shri! I enjoyed your post, and you take such a beautiful photography!

  20. Great photography!!! A great read and those mangoes look so tangy.

  21. Amazing clicks.... N nice info n nice recipe

  22. Thanks Recipe World, Reeni, Nami, Rachana and Akila! :-)

  23. What an interesting read, and your photographs are so beautiful! Now I'm in the mood for mango!

  24. U have a beautiful space here...first time here, happily following u ..Nice post and lovely clicks.

  25. lovely write up.. first time at your space.. following you.. and lovely snaps
    do visit mine in your spare time
    Noel collections

  26. Awesome Clicks !

  27. woww...superb clicks.. got the feel that i saw it through my eyes.

  28. Awesome clicks..first time share a beautiful space...
    Happy to follow you!
    Inviting you to mine...

  29. I'm so glad you left a comment on my blog... enjoyed reading the post... i had no idea uppumanga was so famous. I love your pictures... they are just awesome... I mean I kept scrolling back up coz I can't take my eveyes of them... Too good!

  30. Merci Shri de ton passage. Je te souhaite un bon weekend.
    See soon.


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