Origin of Mangosteen
Nobody can say the location of mangosteen’s origin with certainty. In 1982, Zeven de Wet surmised that the fruit derived from a species native to Malaysia and India; Richards writes in the “Botanical Journal of the Linnaean Society” that the probable location is Peninsular Malaysia. Other contenders include Indonesia, Thailand or Burma.
According to the book, “Fruit Crops: Vol. 3,” mangosteen was first domesticated in Thailand and Burma. The Western world first learned of the fruit in 1631, although it was only when European explorers brought the seeds in the mid-1800s did they appear throughout the continent’s greenhouses and royal gardens.
Sri Lanka received mangosteen seeds circa 1880 from India, and the trees continue to grow in these countries today. When mangosteen first came to India is unknown, although records show that the trees were flourishing in Madras throughout the 18th century.
Today, a number of tropical areas grow mangosteen, including the Ivory Coast, Madagascar, parts of the Caribbean, Central America, Brazil, China, and Australia. As per a report by Dr. Yan Diczbalis published in the “Permanent Agriculture Resources,” 2006 figures reveal Thailand as the world’s top producer, with Malaysia, Vietnam, and Indonesia as other prominent mangosteen growing countries.
Availability of Mangosteen in India
Mangosteen grows in four areas of India, as all of them are tropical, have high humidity and decent rainfall: Nilgiri hills, the southern districts of Tinnevelly and Kanya-Kumani in Tamil Nadu, and Kerala. In Tamil Nadu, the trees grow from 250ft to 5,000ft elevation. Trees fruit prolifically, especially those aged 20 years plus; however, the fruits must be picked from the tree.
Mangosteen season occurs twice a year: April to June, and during the monsoon season from July to October.
Where to find Mangosteen in India
Small pushcart vendors do not sell mangosteen, probably because they’re too pricey for the budget of most Indians. When in season, mangosteens sell at some local produce shops and most expat stores.
Though mangosteens are available in India, they’re one of the most expensive fruits on the market. Few Indians can afford mangosteens any more than they can afford imported grapes. And yet, one can find the purple gems beckoning customers from their bins. They’ll usually sit next to the figs or apples, likely because the mangosteens make these somewhat pricey fruits look suddenly affordable. To foreigners accustomed to seeing a kilo of fruit cost as much as a meal at a decent restaurant, the cost of mangosteen in India may not be a sticker shock. Indeed, mangosteens sell for less than half of the cheapest price one could find in the US or Europe. For others, however, the fruit is an extravagant indulgence.
Checking for Ripeness in Mangosteen
Mangosteen is ripe only when its woody, leathery purple rind yields to the touch. The exterior will still be hard, but should give if squeezed tightly. Mangosteen’s exterior should be deep purple, a far deviation from its unripe, white appearance on the tree. Do not be alarmed by waxy yellow substance appearing near its green cap: though this is an indicator that the mangosteen is becoming overripe, the fruit is still sweet and edible. When ripe, the pulp gives off a citrusy sweet aroma.
Avoid fruits with an aged, brown, dry exterior. If the fruit is light and rock solid, it’s likely spoiled.
Taste of Mangosteen
Mangosteen is loved by most who try the juicy, delicately sugared fruit. R.W. Apple writes in a 2003 New York Times article, “I could tell you the flavor reminds me of litchis, peaches and clementine mingled in a single succulent mouthful, but words can no more describe how mangosteens taste than explain why I love my wife and children.”
As Apple explains, mangosteen’s taste is not easy to describe. It replicates mango and passion fruit’s mellowness, sweetness, and tropical earthiness. The soft pulp surrounding the seed is the most subdued, whereas the pulp surrounding the gelatinous seed bears some tanginess.
Mangosteen has no hint of sourness or acidity, and is therefore not a “bright” fruit like an orange. Its uniform sweetness and lack of astringency means it is not moody fruit like jamun, and it is not fickle with an ever-changing flavor like longan. Its taste is not hit-or-miss, and you won’t read of long debates about the fruit’s merits as one does with, say, durian.
Mangosteen is an eager-to-please fruit, and excels in its likeability. As such, it’s universally praised with compliments like “the queen of fruits,” and that eating one is a “transcendental experience.” Though mangosteen is indeed worthy of these compliments, it’s also best to remember that the fruit’s juice sells for up to $50 a bottle in Western countries. Some would point to a distortion in the price versus its value.
Avoid splurging on mangosteens bought outside of Asia. Many who have purchased fruits in Europe and the US have been disappointed, and claim that the fresher, locally grown fruits in Asia have superior flavor.
Nutritional Value of Mangosteen
According to the USDA nutrient database, 100g of mangosteen contains the following values:
.054mg Thiamin (5% RDI)
.054mg Riboflavin (5% RDI)
.286mg Niacin (2% RDI)
.032mg Pantothenic acid (1% RDI)
.018mg B6 (1% RDI)
31ug Folate (8% RDI)
2.9mg Vitamin C (3% RDI)
12mg Calcium (1% RDI)
.3mg Iron (2% RDI)
13mg Magnesium (4% RDI)
.102mg Manganese (5% RDI)
8mg Phosphorous (1% RDI)
48mg Potassium (1% RDI)
.21mg Zinc (2% RDI)
Health Benefits of Mangosteen
Mangosteen’s health benefits are the stuff of legends and, admittedly, high-end marketing campaigns. However, scientific studies show promising results regarding the fruit’s health benefits.
Mangosteen’s traditional health benefits are as follows:
--In China, the powdered dried rind is used to combat dysentery, eczema and other skin disorders. It’s also administered for the treatment of diarrhea, cystitis, gonorrhea, gleet, and used as a lotion.
--Filipinos use the leaves and bark to treat thrush, diarrhea, dysentery, and urinary problems.
--Malaysians use leaves and unripe bananas to heal circumcision wounds, and the roots to regulate menstruation.
Several astounding pharmaceutical applications of mangosteen have been discovered as well.
--A study by scientists in Japan published in BMC Medicine reports that mangosteen pericarps reduce tumor growth and cell metastasis. In rats, the tumor volume and lymph node metastasis were significantly reduced in the control group that consumed mangosteen.
--As per a 2011 study conducted and published in Phytochemistry, mangosteen’s essential xanthones exhibit antihyperglycemic activity, and may be of use to diabetic patients.
--A study published in 2012 by BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine reports that the xanthones in mangosteen inhibited the growth of colorectal carcinoma cells, thereby displaying anti-colon cancer activity. The scientists also reference xanthone’s other pharmacological uses including as antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial agents.
-- According to a study published in Natural Product Communications, six of the xanthones in mangosteen may be beneficial in treating liver fibrosis
--A study published in the Food and Chemical Toxicology indicates that xanthones may be a powerful candidate for combatting melanoma, or, skin cancer.
--A 2011 study published in Neuroscience shows that mangosteen combats the neurotoxicity of the chemo drug, Doxorubicin. Thus, xanthones in mangosteen might be a potent chemopreventive.
--A 2009 study posted in Journal of Ethnopharmacology affirms mangosteen hull’s traditional use as an anti-inflammatory agent.
--According to research conducted in Thailand and published in Molecules, xanthones inhibited the proliferation of cancerous brain tumor cells.
--A study in China published by Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior states that mangosteen’s xanthones are potent analgesics.
Note: Mangosteen’s xanthones concentrate in the rind; not the pulp. To capitalize on the fruit’s medicinal benefits, make a tea from the rind. Or, dehydrate the rind, dry the powder, and ingest in smoothies, teas, or in capsule form.
How to Open/Cut:
Opening mangosteen is an art: Squeeze using the thumb on one side, and the index and middle finger on the other. The fruit’s thick rind should crack slightly, allowing the rest of the rind to be pried open with ease. Also, take caution when opening the fruit, as it’s possible to stain the fingers with its dark, nutrient-rich juice.
Though one can open a mangosteen with a knife, it’s best to use the fingers: If it’s too difficult to open with the hands, there’s a good chance the mangosteen is unripe, or it has spoiled.
Here’s a video illustrating a mangosteen being opened. It’s a pretty informative clip as well:
Mangosteens do not ripen from the tree. They are quite perishable, but refrigeration will extend their shelf life. Indian scientists discovered that at a temperature of 40 F in 80 to 90 percent humidity, the fruits keep for almost 50 days.
Note: Cold mangosteens are more difficult to open than ones that have been sitting at room temperature. Leave the fruits to sit for an hour if the rind is unyielding.
Mangosteen Recipe Ideas and Uses:
--Mix mangosteen with coconut milk, sugar and lime. Put through an ice cream maker for a smooth treat.
--Make mangosteen sorbet by simply adding sugar and lemon juice. Freeze the blended concoction and blend.
--Make a vodka-based mangosteen martini by placing a mangosteen fruit in each glass. Flavor complements include coconut water or pomegranate juice.
--Because the nutrients are concentrated in the mangosteen’s rich purple rind, dry or dehydrate the skin, powder it, and ingest in pill form or add to smoothies.
--Or, treat the skin with 6 percent sodium chloride and use the pectin-rich rind in jams and preserves. Though some make jam from the arils, mangosteen is heat-sensitive and loses much of its delicate flavor when cooked.
--Church members in the Philippines took dried mangosteen rind, pounded them into a dried pulp, and sold them as nutritional capsules.
--Create a mangosteen salad: make a dessert-like salad by combining mango, coconut flakes, strawberries and coconut cream, or, make a savory salad by including banana flower, raw papaya, lime juice, salt, pepper, peanuts and sesame seeds.
Note: Mangosteens are one of the few fruits that should not be used in recipes. Given the fruit’s high price and mellow flavor, it should not be mixed with other ingredients. Only a use recipe that highlights and showcases the mangosteen—its taste is easily buried if used with other showier fruits.
|Mangosteen ambrosia from|
Apricot, nectarine, peach, passion fruit, pineapple, rambutan, lychee, longan, coconut, cherry, strawberry, plum, cacao pulp, pomegranate
Herbs, spices, and oil: coconut oil, coconut milk, vanilla, sugar
The small flower imprint at the fruit’s bottom is also a blueprint of its insides: The number of flower petals on the imprint is identical to the number of sections inside the mangosteen.
Indian farmers nourish mangosteen trees with manure and peanut meal.
Mangosteen is the national fruit of Thailand.