The Queen of Fruits. That’s the unofficial official name for purple mangosteen. It’s a fruit that gets very little international fanfare but I am sure you’ve all heard of the King, Durian. As you can see from the photo, the mangosteen is very purple on the outside (it will stain) and white segments on the inside that are edible. Those white, fleshy segments are very fragile and contain lots of juice. The larger segments contain a seed that, depending on ripeness of the fruit, can be eaten. Think of the seeds the way you would think of the pit in a cherry — it has a lot of flesh attached to it. The flavor is very sweet, light and refreshing compared to other tropical fruits in the region. The growing season is just about in sync with the durian, and the quality of the fruit fluctuates wildly if you are not in the native country that it’s grown. The best mangosteens I’ve had have been while I was in both Thailand and Indonesia.
While they are a lot of fun to eat, they are even more fun to open. The way I gauge ripeness is by gently squeezing the body to see if it’s soft. Harder mangosteens tend to be either over-ripe, which means the seeds have collected all the nutrients and dried out the flesh, or they are under-ripe and just crumble in your hands (and making you a purple mess). Sizes range from plum size to small peach, and this is a case where bigger is almost always better.
I doubt we will see many mangosteens in western markets. Wikipedia does a great job of explaining why: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Purple_mangosteen#Marketing. In addition to the difficulties mentioned, the natural environment for which a lot of these fruits are grown lend themselves to insects camping out all the way to your kitchen counter. What I have learned to do is to wrap them up tight and put them in the fridge overnight to easily kill bugs I can’t see when picking the fruits at the markets. If you want all-natural, don’t be surprised if you pick up a few travelers along the way.
Have you tried them fresh or freeze-dried, even? Let us know! @MIEWfoodsLLC