New Delhi, June 24: The West Bengal government is pushing for a GI tag for the Kohitur mango, arguably the most prized variety among the king of fruits that was 'created' during the reign of nawab Siraj-ud-Daulah strictly for royals only and now sells for up to Rs 1,500 a piece.
The precious mango, so delicate that each piece has to be carefully plucked by hand and swathed in cotton, was developed in the late 18th century by the last nawab of Bengal. The mango was out of bounds for commoners with only royal orchards permitted to grow it, and only royals allowed to relish it.
Still out of reach for most, except for modern-day royals who have the means to spend, the the West Bengal government is trying to save and popularise the Murshidabad nawab's favourite fruit all over the world and get a geographical indication (GI) tag.
"Kohitur is an exclusive variety from West Bengal. It can be only found in Murshidabad. At one time, there were 148 varieties in this district but now only 42 varieties are left. We are trying to save this variety. We have now applied for GI tag for Kohitur. Hopefully we will get it," Gautam Roy, Deputy Director of Horticulture, Murshidabad told PTI.
The GI tag ensures that only those registered as authorised users are allowed to use the product name.
The rare and costly mango is presently on display and sold as a precious item from the state at the ongoing 'Mango Festival" by the West Bengal government in the capital's Janpath area.
"Legend has that, Siraj ud-Daulah, a connoisseur of mangoes, had gathered saplings of the best mangoes from all over the country for his garden in Murshidabad. He had even appointed few of his favourite mango breeders who were treated like Akbar's Navratnas to do research and cross breed between various mangoes to create new varieties. Kohitur was created at that time and it was his favourite," Roy stated.
The Kohitur is believed to have been created by a royal mango breeder called Hakim Ada Mohammadi, by cross breeding between a mango called Kalopahar and another variety, Roy said.
Though the Kalopahar, which got its name from its blackish green skin, is now extinct, the Kohitur continues to grow. But the numbers are dwindling.
According to Kohitur growers, there are only 10 to 15 growers and only 25 to 30 Kohitur trees left in Murshidabad district despite the state government's efforts to save the mango species.
"The district has more than 200 mango orchards but this variety is found only in a few. Some of these trees are over 150 years old. One tree does not bear more than 40 fruits in a season and the trees don't bear fruit every year, making Kohitur one of the most sought after mangoes, said Ashabul Mondol, a mango grower.
"It is an extremely delicate mango. It is not a very commercially viable mango," he added.
But since each mango is priced at more than Rs 500, growers tend to earn well.
"Last season we sold each mango at Rs 1,500 per piece in Kolkata," Mondol said.
The fruit is so delicate that fully ripe mangoes have to be plucked by hand. They start rotting if they fall from trees or get damaged in handling.
"It is so delicate that these mangoes need to be packed or kept separately wrapped in cotton. Legend has it that the nawabs kept the mangoes dipped in honey to preserve it and increase its shelf-life," said Roy.
To relish the royal favourite, if you can afford it, eat them the way the royals did.
According to legend, Kohitur was not sliced by metal knives but bamboo knives to get the real flavour and taste. The nawabs would then use golden toothpicks to dig in delicately.
The Union Commerce Ministry has earlier given the GI tag for the Ratnagiri and Devgad Alphonso mangoes.