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Down Mango’s Memory Lane

Somewhere between the first rains and before the rainy season ends, you’ll find the mango at its best. Unripe green mangoes turn reddish yellow, inviting you to buy from the mallam’s wheelbarrow, the hawker’s tray, or the market woman’s basket, or, if you’re still privileged to live in places where tropical trees are still rife, to pluck from the trees.

Speaking of the trees, we, who were privileged to grow up with real trees that had real fruits, were hardly patient with leaving them to complete the duty of ripening the fruits. Not when other kids had their eyes on them. And definitely not when we discovered we could ripen them faster by putting them in polythene bags. We formed plucker-picker partnerships then, especially when plucking with sticks proved to be technical; one person would climb to pluck, the other would pick, and at close of business, the mangoes were counted, the climber making sure figures tallied with what fell from above. Mangoes were real treasures old time kids had to work for.

But not all green mangoes are unripe. Yellow and red are attracting, and psychologically had an impact on us as kids. Our opioro (or German) and kerosene mangoes would not “ripe” even though they got soft. Without deterring us, we would rip off the green skin and bite into the succulent yellow flesh. Sweet in its own way, but different from the much loved sheri type, we enjoyed it, not minding the kerosene aftertaste; we licked the seed till it went white and almost without fiber, and we would later deal with the fibers that stuck between our teeth.

These sheri, opioro, and kerosene mangoes are no match for Benue mangoes! The mangoes in Benue are as big as human heads. Five of it were more than enough to feed a classroom of fifty. When I asked my classmate, who took it upon herself to bring it all the way from Makurdi back to school in Enugu, about this rare species, she said they were so big and the trees were so short that kids would eat the mangoes from the trees and would leave the leftovers hanging down the branches. I have not eaten the Benue mangoes since I left secondary school and I still have plans of going to Makurdi just for this cause.

The rains have begun and the mangoes have arrived. Though I have long lost the plucker-picker partnerships of childhood, I still lick mango seeds till they go white and lose their fiber.

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Nnenna is an editor and writer at Connect Nigeria. She loves fine art, books and places.

17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. Nkediche

    26th February 2016 at 10:36 am

    Nice! I’m hungry for mangoes. But I tend towards the Sheri variety…only!

    • Nnenna Okeke

      26th February 2016 at 10:55 am

      Thanks. I’m hungry for mangoes, so hungry I can finish one Benue type!

  2. laura onyinyechi

    26th February 2016 at 11:05 am

    When I come back home my friend, we shall go down to Makurdi for this,,,,,,,,,,,

    • Nnenna Okeke

      29th February 2016 at 1:08 pm

      In fact, the only thing keeping me from the Makurdi trip is my waiting for you. Nwanne m biko come back soon.

  3. Abraham

    26th February 2016 at 12:51 pm

    Nice. the season is here with us again. I won’t miss d ‘sweet’ mango,small but so tasteful

    • Nnenna Okeke

      29th February 2016 at 1:06 pm

      Small but tasty indeed. Thanks Abraham.

  4. Tekena

    26th February 2016 at 1:31 pm

    I lost my love for mangoes as I left school cos back then,I was privileged to live near mango trees (direct from the source)….

    • Nnenna Okeke

      29th February 2016 at 1:05 pm

      Teks why only you waka come na! With all this love for mango from everyone, you’ve lost yours?

  5. Jennifer Oge

    26th February 2016 at 2:54 pm

    Nice one Nnenna,Mango is my best fruit,Can’t see Mango and take off my eyes.Thank God its de season again,Can’t wait to set my eyes on one

    • Nnenna Okeke

      29th February 2016 at 1:03 pm

      Thank you, Jennifer. Just take it easy while eating o.

  6. Onyi

    27th February 2016 at 6:29 am

    Nice article Nnenna. You just made me hungry for mango. I love mangos, it is my best fruit after all. But I prefer the sheri type. So yellow and juicy.
    Even if I just purchased let’s say a certain quantity of mango and am heading home, if I see another seller on my way, I will still stop to purchase more. Its that bad. My dear I can’t wait.

    • Nnenna Okeke

      29th February 2016 at 1:01 pm

      Funny. Onyi your case is ‘that bad’ o. You really have to buy from more than one seller?

  7. chiamaka

    27th February 2016 at 10:54 am

    Living in a place where mango is very expensive, am to be in Nigeria this season, cant wait to get my hands on those succulent ones. Reminds me of those good ole days. Nice write up dear.

    • chiamaka

      27th February 2016 at 10:56 am

      *happy

    • Nnenna Okeke

      29th February 2016 at 12:59 pm

      You’ll definitely not miss this season’s, to make up for years you were absent. You’re welcome.

  8. Vic Chinoo

    27th February 2016 at 7:40 pm

    That reminds me of the good old days when I used to wake up really early in an attempt to beat my brothers to the mango tree where I would perch like a bird and meticulously search for those succulent, tasty Opioro mangoes!!! Good stuff Nnenna. Keep it up

    • Nnenna Okeke

      29th February 2016 at 12:57 pm

      Thank you, Victor. The memories are just as sweet as the fruit.

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