The 'potamus can never reach
The mango on the mango-tree;
But fruits of pomegranate and peach
Refresh the Church from over sea.

--T.S. Eliot, "The Hippopotamus" (1920)

One moment you'll be crouching at your gun
Traversing, mowing heaps down half in fun:
The next, you choke and clutch at your right breast--
No time to think--leave all--and off you go...
To Treasure Island where the Spice winds blow,
To lovely groves of mango, quince and lime--
Breathe no good-bye, but ho, for the Red West!
It's a queer time.

--Robert Graves, "It's a Queer Time" (1919)

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(Mangifera indica)

This luscious tropical fruit is a member of the cashew family, Anacardiaceae--an evergreen that grows some 70 feet high--and was first cultivated about 4,000 years ago in India and the Malay Archipelago. In the 18th and 19th centuries, European explorers discovered them and transported them to places all over the tropical world, including Brazil and Mexico.

Consider this deliciously moody story from Bantu tribes in the Belgian Congo, collected by Virginia Holladay in the 1930s (New York: Viking Press):


There was once a man who had a new house. He had built the house so that there was a mango tree on each side of the door. The man was very fond of mangoes and watched the trees carefully every day to see if the fruit had ripened. It happened that the fruit was ready to gather on both trees at the same time. On the tree to the right of the door, the fruit was yellow, with a tinge of pink on the sunny side. On the tree to the left, the fruit had a tinge of pink on a yellow background.

When the man saw how good the fruit looked on both trees, he walked back and forth, trying to decide which he should eat first. Then he sat down on the doorstep to think it over. The longer he sat, the less he could decide. He was so hungry for mangoes that he began to cry. At last he cried himself to sleep.

After a while a stranger came along and saw the man's face all swollen from crying. He woke him up and asked him what the matter was. After hearing about the mangoes, he said he thought that the fruit on the tree to the right looked best. Then he went on his way.

As soon as the stranger was gone the man began to wonder if he should eat the best fruit first, or save it until last. That started him crying again) and he forgot which fruit the stranger had said looked best.

One by one the ripe mangoes fell. When the stranger passed that way again, the man was still sitting on the doorstep crying. All the mangoes had fallen to the ground and rotted.