The bittersweet tale of the new exciting seedless mango

Mango is called the king of fruits in India.
Mango is called the king of fruits in India.
Image: Reuters/Amit Dave
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This week, Indian news outlets announced the development of a new seedless mango by scientists in Bihar, describing it as “the ultimate delicacy.”

While the Sindhu mango may be palatable, it’s not seedless. And, it is not new. In fact, it has been around for more than two decades.

There are hundreds of varieties of mangoes in the subcontinent, which is the world’s largest producer of the fruit, and researchers often release new hybrids in the market. The Sindhu is a cross between mango varieties Ratna and Alphonso. It was created in 1992 by an agriculture university called Konkan Krishi Vidyapith, Dapoli in Maharashtra. It has a very small and thin seed and way more pulp than typical mangoes.

Research trials on this variety have been conducted all over the country for 20 years, and many states have developed Sindhu fruit. Bihar Agriculture University (BAU) planted the variety in 2011 and bore fruit this year for the first time.

Recent media stories mislead several readers into believing that the state has created a brand new hybrid without a seed. On Twitter this week, many users considered it one of India’s best scientific inventions in recent years and applauded Bihar scientists for coming up with this idea. Others were horrified at the thought of an “impotent mango” and moaned the imminent death of a key ritual while eating the fruit—sucking on the mango pit. Read all the reactions here.

The joy and concerns are both unwarranted.

“Neither have we developed this mango nor is it seedless,” V.B. Patel, chairman of the horticulture department at BAU told Quartz. “We simply tested this variety.”

In a typical mango, the seed can be 15% to 30% of its total weight, whereas the Sindhu weighs around 200 grams and the seed is less than 10% of the total weight.

Mangoes are immensely popular in South Asia during summers. A variety that is sweet and almost entirely edible will most likely rule the fruit market. But consumers will have to wait before they can sink their teeth into a Sindhu. While media reports suggested the variety will be available for export by 2015, Patel said that is extremely unlikely.

“The mango will not be available commercially for at least five more years as the research trials are still underway,” he said.