Mangoes in June

Growing up in the Southern Hemisphere has its own traditions.

Christmas, for example, is always summer – hot  days at the beach, eating salads and cold meats for Christmas dinner. Buying trays of Darwin mangoes to devour over the hot steamy days.

Despite living in the Northern Hemisphere for over a decade, there’s just some things I can’t get my head around. Like the school year starting in August or September, instead of January or February as it does, sensibly, in the Southern Hemisphere.

Or mangoes in June. Mangoes are for summer and Christmas time. Whenever I see them here, I still wonder what month it is. It just seems unseasonal to be seeing mangoes in June.The city where I live, Suzhou, is not renowned for its cost of living. Its an expensive city, with one of the highest GDPs in China. Mangoes usually cost the equivalent of about 4 Australian dollars each – much as they would at home.

Last week as I was walking home from work, I noticed a new shop, with hagglers outside, and a crowd of people rushing to buy stuff. I kept walking. The next day, I looked – and listened – more carefully  “man guo, shi kuai san jin”  –  mangoes, ten RMB for three jin. ( A jin is  around half a kilo.) Obviously, I couldn’t resist.

Mangoes – ten kuai for three jin. Cheap at half the price.

I bought quite a few – delicious!

The glut of mangoes is coming on the tail end of the cherry season. Along with black cherries from Xin Jiang, in China’s northwest, there have been large, delicious, ripe red cherries for sale. Quite expensive – at up to 68 kuai per jin. As the season’s running out, today, at the discount fruit stall, they were up to 98 kuai per jin – thats almost 20 Australian dollars per half a kilo. Ouch.

The cherries are imported from the USA, and Jack Ma, of Alibaba fame, has a few things to say about American cherries. In the past, China was the world’s factory, making a lot of “stuff” for western consumption. With China’s growing middle class, says Jack, there is a huge market for western produce in China. Jack was behind importing American cherries direct from small businesses in the Pacific Northwest of the USA, and he says its good for the American economy, and good for the Chinese economy.

I’ll admit the cherries were delicious – when I could afford to buy them – but you can’t go past fresh mangos, especially when I can buy 6 lovely juicy ones for 13.5 RMB. Thats around $2 Austalian, for anyone who’s counting.

In India, mangoes are the national fruit. They are known as ‘the fruit of the gods’, and its probably from the Malayalam word  manga that our word mango comes from. Once I read a novel by an Indian writer ( forget which book and which author) which said about mangoes

it doesnt matter how bad life is, or how sad you may be feeling, when you have mangoes to eat, all is well with the world.

mangoes – fruit of the gods