Lucknow: Every year, in the mango season, Kalimullah Khan and his famous mango tree attract media attention.
His mango tree — one of its kind — has almost 300 varieties in one tree.
The 120-year-old tree is a treasure on its own.
“This tree is not just a tree –it is an orchard on its own. It has 300 varieties of mango growing and flourishing. I have spent years grafting different varieties and making this possible,” says the 82-year-old ‘mango man’.
Kalimullah Khan developed a love for mangoes when he was a teenager.
“I began experimenting with grafting and joining different varieties. Once, I managed to get seven varieties in one plant but the tree fell down in a storm,” he recalls.
Talking about his treasured tree, he says that each of the 300 varieties growing in the tree have their own taste, texture, colour and size.
The tree stands nine metres (30 feet) tall and has a stout trunk with wide-spreading, thick branches that yield a pleasant shade against the sun.
The leaves are a patchwork of different textures and smells. In some places, they are yellow and glossy, and in others, a dark, dull green.
“Just like two fingerprints are never the same, no two mango varieties are the same,” he says.
Kalimullah Khan explains that his method for grafting is intricate, and involves diligently slicing a branch from one variety, leaving an open wound into which a branch from another variety is spliced and sealed with tape.
“I remove the tape once the joint becomes sturdy, and hopefully, this new branch will be ready by next season, and bear a new variety after two years,” he says.
Kalimullah has named his mango varieties after celebrities.
You have mangoes named ‘Aishwarya’, ‘Sachin’, Prime minister Narendra Modi and now Yogi Adityanath.
“Each variety has a quality that is related to the celebrity. For instance, ‘Sachin’ may be small but it has a distinct taste,” he informs.
‘Aishwarya’ is as beautiful as the actress. One mango weighs more than a kilogram (two pounds), has a tinge of crimson to its outer skin and it tastes very sweet.
However, Kalimullah Khan is upset that the number of varieties has also fallen. He blames it on intensive farming techniques and the widespread use of cheap fertilisers and insecticides.
Growers also plant too many trees packed too tightly together, leaving no space for moisture and dew to settle on the leaves, he says.