Exotic Fruits – Mangosteen

My little post on the Pineberry seemed to stir up quite a bit of interest which prompted me to run additional little segments on exotic fruits around the world. So, check it out….have you ever seen a mangosteen?  A mangosteen is a tropical fruit that grows in South East Asia, the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia. Although the root word, “mango” is ever-present in its name, the two fruits are very different from one another. Perhaps you’ve already heard of this exotic tropical fruit at this point as many proclaim its amazing antioxidant power.  But up until about 2005, the mangosteen was relatively unknown to those in the United States. Many believe that the fruit’s woody purplish rind is what contains most of the antioxidants (and phytochemicals called “xanthones”), so liquid mangosteen supplements are often made with the whole fruit, rind included. As a result, you can often find mangosteen juice or supplements, but what about the actual fruit itself? Did you know it looks like this?

Mangosteens are available canned and frozen in Western countries. Without fumigation or irradiation as fresh fruit, mangosteens have historically been illegal for importation in commercial volumes into the United States due to fears that they harbour the Asian fruit fly, which would endanger U.S. crops. This situation, however, officially changed in 2007, when irradiated imports from Thailand were allowed upon USDA approval of irradiation, packing and shipping techniques. Freeze-dried and dehydrated mangosteen arils can also be found. (Obviously, we need to avoid irradiated foods as much as possible as many believe the process actually modifies or changes the DNA structure of the food itself. Just something to be mindful of.)

Since 2006, private small volume orders for fruits grown in Puerto Rico were sold to American gourmet restaurants who serve the aril pieces as a delicacy dessert. Due to the shape and feel of the fruits, they were promoted in parts of the US as ‘fruit grenades’. Beginning in 2007 for the first time, fresh mangosteens were sold from speciality produce stores in New York City for as high as $45 per pound, but, during 2009 and 2010, wider availability and lower prices have become common in the United States.

Before ripening, the mangosteen shell is fibrous and firm, but becomes soft and easy to pry open when the fruit ripens. To open a mangosteen, the shell is usually scored first with a knife; one holds the fruit in both hands, prying gently along the score with the thumbs until the rind cracks. It is then easy to pull the halves apart along the crack and remove the fruit. Occasionally, during peeling of ripe fruits, the purple exocarp juice may stain skin or fabric. The edible endocarp of the mangosteen is botanically defined as an aril with the same shape and size as a tangerine 4–6 centimetres in diameter, but is white. The circle of wedge-shaped arils contains 4–8 segments, the larger ones harboring seeds that are unpalatable unless roasted.

Often described as a subtle delicacy, the arils bear an exceptionally mild aroma, quantitatively having about 1/400th of the chemical constituents of fragrant fruits, explaining its relative mildness. Many say the mangosteen has a unique aroma consisting of caramel, grass and butter notes.

Here’s one person’s description of what a mangosteen tastes like:

”Imagine the best peach you’ve ever eaten, combined with a touch of passion fruit, a sliver of nectarine and a nip of lychee. Imagine a concord grape’s sweet purple essence giving way to the clean leanness of a Granny Smith. Add a squeeze of lime, and a spoon of buttery brown sugar. Stir.”

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