In 1968, Chairman Mao received a crate of mangoes from the Pakistani foreign minister, who was visiting Beijing. He ‘re-gifted’ them to the factory workers’ peacekeeping squads who called themselves 'The Worker-Peasant Mao Zedong Thought Propaganda Teams' and had been suppressing student uprisings. Mao probably did it because he didn’t like mangoes much but it was interpreted as a selfless gesture for the benefit of the workers; and mangoes became the ultimate symbol of sacrifice for the good of the country.
The crate of mangoes was split up and individual fruits were sent to factories where they were put on altars, preserved in formaldehyde, sealed in wax and (in one case) boiled in a huge pot of water, of which each worker was granted a spoonful.
There were Mao mango medallions, textiles with mango pictures on them, and hundreds more mango artefacts — trays, mugs, fabrics. The state even produced Mango Brand cigarettes.
Despite all this, most people in China had never seen a mango. One man who 'remarked that it was nothing special and looked just like a sweet potato' was arrested as a counter-revolutionary, tried, found guilty, taken to the edge of town, and shot.
In Hinduism, mango leaves and flowers represent fertility and are hung on people’s front doors during New Year. On holy days, Hindus sometimes brush their teeth with mango twigs. This is not advisable: they are toxic.
The first mangoes imported to America in the 16th century were pickled. As a result, other pickled fruits became known as ‘mangoes’ and mango was adopted to mean ‘pickle’ in general.
In the American mid-west, pickled bell peppers are still sometimes referred to as ‘mangoes’.
Borneo has the world's largest number of species of mango, but not the world's largest number of mango trees.
The mango tree is believed to originate in the sub-Himalayan plains of Indian subcontinent. It is the national fruit of India, Pakistan and the Philipines and the national tree of Bangladesh. It belongs to the family Anacardiaceae, which also includes cashews.
After flowering its fruits generally grow at the end of a long, string like peduncle, with sometimes more than one fruit to a peduncle. Its weight ranges from 150gm to around 750gm. The outer skin is smooth and green in unripe mangos but in ripens to golden yellow, crimson red or orange-red, depending upon the cultivar.
In Australia, the first tray of mangoes of the season is traditionally sold at an auction for charity.
In Tamil Nadu, the mango is referred to as one of the three royal fruits, along with banana and jackfruit
In the West Indies, the expression 'to go mango walk' means to steal another person's mangoes.