The mango tree is erect with a broad, rounded canopy which can attain 30-40 cm width and 20 m height. In deep soil, the taproot descends to a depth of 6 m, the profuse, wide-spreading, feeder root system also sends down many anchor roots which penetrate for several feet.
The tree is long-lived, some specimens being known to be 300 years old and still fruiting. Nearly evergreen, alternate leaves are borne mainly in rosettes at the tips of the branches and numerous twigs from which they droop like ribbons on slender petioles. The new leaves are yellow, pink or wine-red, becoming dark-green and glossy above, lighter beneath. Each tree can produce hundreds and even as many as 3,000 to 4,000 small, yellowish or reddish flowers. There is great variation in the form, size, colour and quality of the fruits. They may be nearly round, oval or kidney-shaped. They range from 6 – 25 cm in length and can weigh from less than 200 g to 2 kg. The skin is leathery, waxy, smooth, thick and aromatic and the colour ranges from light-or dark-green to yellow, orange, reddish-pink to dark-red or purple. Some have a ‘turpentine’ odour and flavour, while others are richly and pleasantly fragrant. The flesh ranges from pale-yellow to deep-orange. Of the many hundreds of varieties of mangoes that grow in warm climates worldwide, the most popular in the UK are the Alphonso, Kesar and Sugar – all imported from the Asian sub-continent. Other popular varieties in the UK include Tommy Atkins, Keitt, Haden and Julie which are sold by supermarkets and generally look good but are tasteless as they have been picked too early.
Ripe mangos are mainly eaten as a fresh fruit or mixed with vanilla ice-cream. They are sometimes eaten as a pulp with food. Unripe mangos are used mainly for pickling and in chutneys. The fresh kernel of the mango seed (stone) constitutes 13% of the weight of the fruit, 55% to 65% of the weight of the stone. In times of food scarcity in India, the kernels are roasted or boiled and eaten. After soaking to dispel the astringency (tannins), the kernels are dried and ground to flour which is mixed with wheat or rice flour to make bread and it is also used in puddings.
Dried mango flowers, containing 15% tannin, serve as astringents in cases of diarrhea, chronic dysentery, catarrh of the bladder and chronic urethritis resulting from gonorrhea. The bark contains mangiferine and is astringent and employed against rheumatism and diphtheria.