Last weekend I made my weekly pilgrimage to my favourite provedore/green grocer to see what yummy treats they had in store for me this week.
Sitting in the fruit aisles, looking strange and dark sat a pile of mangosteens, individually wrapped in styrofoam stockings to protect their precious cargo. With some helpful guidance from my grocer I selected a few fruits for A$1.30 each (US98c / EU77c) and took them home to try.
I AM IN LOVE!
Mangosteens could just possibly be the best fruit in the whole world.
They could just possibly be the best food in the whole world.
Yes, this is a huge call but then I have fallen hard for these tropical fruits. Il Presidente Mangosteen. Vote one mangosteen!
I feel so entirely blessed that farmers in Far North Queensland decided that their tropical plots would be ideal for these wonderful little fruits and so they started growing them back in the 1990s. Since a mangosteen tree can take around 10 years to bear fruit, this forethought has meant that Australians are now starting to enjoy some of the most delectable fruits that are rarely found outside South East Asia. Yay!
I urge anyone who can get their hands on a mangosteen to give it a try. You will not be disappointed.
The exterior shell of the fruit, known as the pericap, turns a deep, bold red when it is ripe. When first picked from the tree, the outer casing is soft and can be squeezed open but usually people buy the fruit a few days later and so the pericap has dried and hardened so probably needs to be opened with a knife.
The inside of the mangosteen is bright white and comes in segments, much like a mandarin. There are conflicting views as to whether the small seeds within the mangosteen are edible. My greengrocer told me that I can eat them if they're soft, but if it’s too hard I should spit them out. Thus far I’ve only come across soft seeds that can be chewed and so I’ve eaten them without any nasty side effects.
Mangosteens have a wonderful creamy texture with a glorious sweet and refreshing flavour. They are similar to lychees, but the lychee seems much coarser compared to the elegant lemon-floral taste of the mangosteen. It is also reminiscent of fragrant peaches and white grapes, with its perfect balance of acidity and sweetness.
The mangosteen is an evergreen tree that originates in the archipelago making up Malaysia and Indonesia. French explorer Jacques Garcin (1673-1751) gave it the scientific name Garcinia mangostana.
Mangosteens trees grow around 7 – 25 metres tall (23 – 82 feet) and can only grow in tropical climates. Exposure to temperatures below 4’C (40’F) would kill a mature plant! For this reason they can only be grown in locations like South East Asia, Central Africa, Hawaii, far northern Queensland (Australia), Central America and the Caribbean. Even attempts to grow mangosteens in humid Florida have been problematic.
Unfortunately for Americans, fresh mangosteens cannot be imported into the US from most of these locations due to the fear of the Asian fruit fly hitching a ride with them. Even those grown in Hawaii cannot be transported to the mainland and many mangosteens found in the Chinatowns of US cities come illegally from Canada. The US can import mangosteens from 18 Caribbean countries but most of these countries don’t cultivate mangosteens commercially. Good news for the US however, since new crops in Puerto Rico have reach maturity and fresh mangosteens are slowly entering markets.
In Europe, mangosteens can be found in green grocers, usually with Asian specialties, as well as certain farmers markets. I am led to believe they are still quite rare however.
In its home of South East Asia it is known as the “Queen of Fruits” while the durian, the world’s most infamously pungent fruit, is known as the “King”. In the French Caribbean, mangosteens are known as “the food of the Gods”.
Juice from the dark red pericap is so potent that it can be impossible to remove. This has led some hotels in South East Asia to ban mangosteens from their premises.
Other plants in the mangosteen family, such as St John’s Wort, have been used for medicinal purposes and scientists and researchers are studying mangosteens (both the fruit and the pericap) to develop products such as antimicrobial and antiparasitic treatments; dehydration aids; antiseptics and anti-inflammatories.
The pericap of the mangosteens contains mangostin, which is an organic compound made up of xanthones. The xanthones in mangosteens are some of the strongest anti-radicals, anti-oxigenes, anti-aging agents and anti-cancerogenes to be found organically.
Filipinos use a mangosteen extract to control fever and in India the pericap is believed to assist dysentery and infectious diarrhoea.
In China and Thailand they utilise mangosteens for treating wounds, malaria, gonorrhoea, urinary tract infections, tuberculosis and syphilis.
In the Caribbean, the mangosteen tea "eau de Creole", is believed to be a tonic for fatigue, while Brazilians use mangosteen tea for digestion and in Venezuela it’s included in a poultice for skin infections caused by parasites.
I feel guilty for not providing a WHB recipe and so I found this recipe for a sorbet on the Cape Trib Exotic Fruit Farm website. Mangosteen sorbet would be heavenly, but I still believe nothing could beat the sweet, creaminess of the fresh fruit.
Recipe by Cape Trib Exotic Fruit Farm.
1 cup of chopped mangosteen segments
1 cup of dry champagne
2 egg whites
3 tablespoons of sugar
6 lime slices
1. Peel the mangosteen and chop the fruit, then push the flesh through a fine sieve to extract the puree.
2. Stir the champagne into the puree.
3. Whip the egg whites, mix in the sugar, and then fold the mixture into the fruit puree and freeze.
4. Decorate with lime slices before serving.
Be sure to check out the WHB recap at Kalyn’s Kitchen. There are so many interesting recipes and ideas that come out of the group.
Tags: morsels and musings food blog food and drink australia recipes weekend herb blogging whb mangosteen tropical fruit