September 1, 2006

Mangosteen Revisited

Some questions have arisen since my last article on the Queen of the Fruit so I thought I would try to tie up some loose ends about mangosteen.

Mangosteens are not illegal in the U.S.!
Neither the tree nor the fruit are illegal to grow or to eat. The problem is that mangosteens do not grow very well in the mainland. They need the constant warmth and high humidity of a tropical area and cannot survive at temperatures below 40°F. Is it possible to grow them in southern Florida and parts of California that have climates like southern Florida. They just have not been successfully grown on a commercial level.

Importation of mangosteens to the U.S.
It is currently illegal to import the raw fruit to the U.S. from southeast Asia, where most of the commercial crops are grown, and Hawaii because of the threat of fruit fly infestation. Mangosteens don't typically have a problem with insects but they have stiff sepals on the top of the fruit which provide a perfect hiding place for fruit flies or other insects which could be devastating to other U.S. crops so that is the reasoning behind the ban.

Fruit can be imported from Puerto Rico and 18 Caribbean and Central American countries. This is a Catch-22, as, in general, those countries do not currently have the quantities to make it worthwhile to export to the U.S. A new friend of mine who does grow mangosteens has told me that his crops are sold out for the foreseeable future!

Importation to other countries
The fruit is sometimes available in Canada and Europe, although I have read that it isn't always as fresh as it should be. And for those of you who just perked up because you live near the Canadian border, it is illegal to bring the fruit into the U.S. from Canada, as well. Aussies are a little luckier; mangosteen is grown in the north Queensland area of Australia and also imported from Thailand. India is one of the major producers.

The U.S.D.A. is currently considering a revision to the law which would allow irradiated mangosteens to be imported from Thailand. It will probably take 6 months to a year before the law is changed, but I imagine that very soon after that, mangosteens will become more available in the U.S. Just don't think that they will be priced at 10 cents like I paid!

Serving Mangosteen
If you are able to find mangosteen, don't worry about recipes! Enjoy the pure, unadulterated flavor of it fresh. Mangosteen is most often served chilled, with the rind cut away to expose the fruit inside, as in the photo above. The contrast between the dark, rich purple-red of the rind and the creamy white fruit is really lovely.

From my experience, I would say that cutting the rind is preferable to tearing the fruit open. Make a careful cut around the circumference of the fruit to insure that you don't damage the fruit inside, remove half of the rind and serve it in the other half with a fork. My "Gardening in the Tropics" book suggests that in Malaysia the fruit is often accompanied with another tropical fruit called durian. I have not had durian so I can't say about that. The descriptions of the foul odor of durian have put me off trying it.

Mangosteen recipes
If you don't want to eat them fresh, they can be made into a very good juice (using only the white part), or used in mixed fruit salads or for making sorbets, jams or jellies. It is a very delicate fruit and I haven't run across any other recipes that I think would do them justice. If you are so lucky as to have an excess of mangosteen (not bloody likely!), I suggest juicing the white pulp and freezing the juice for another day.

Mangosteen juice
The prepared "miracle" juices that are on the market at exorbitant prices advertise that their juice includes the "whole fruit," including the rind. The rind is so bitter (yes, I tasted it. Yuck!) that I cannot imagine that this juice could be palatable unless it includes a sweetener or something else to mask the bitterness. The rind is used in homeopathic remedies, but there is a big difference between "taking your medicine" and enjoying a refreshing drink!

Other names
Mangosteen is also known as mangostá­n or mangostí­n (Latin America), mang khut (Thailand), mangis (Philippines), and mangoustan (France).


Since I am now a mangosteen expert (haha!) I took the liberty of adding a description of the flavor to the Wikipedia Mangosteen article, which didn't include a discussion of the flavor at all. I'm sure that someone out there can do a much better job, so if you have tasted it, feel free to edit me! ;-o

My mangosteen tree
My new friend, Mr. Mangosteen, has analyzed my tree from its picture in the previous mangosteen article and informed me that it looked like it had recently been exposed to excess sun (Yikes, like since I planted it!), a lack of sufficient water (ditto), and worst of all that, at 9 inches (23 cm.), it is probably no more than one year old. So that invitation to stop by for a juice will still have to stand for 2014. Here's a picture of my new, well-cared for mangosteen tree being properly protected from the tropical sun.
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