Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Mangosteens 101

I've talked about them before and I've decided that a bit of education is in order.

The Mangosteen is believed to have originated in the general area of Indonesia, and perhaps specifically the Sunda Islands. Garcinia mangostana as it is known botanically is an ultra-tropical evergreen found very locally in the equatorial regions of Southeast Asia. At maturity it stands between 20 and 80 feet tall. It is named for Laurentiers Garcin, a French explorer who is generally acknowledged as the first westerner to obtain and describe the plant bu it has been known regionally for thousands of years both as a food and as an element in traditional medicine. The edible seed is not so much a fruit, but rather an aril, or a highly specialized, fleshy covering of the seed of a plant. Pomegranates are probably the most commonly recognized arils in the west. There is a story, perhaps apocryphal that Queen Victoria offered a handsome reward to whomever could deliver a fresh Mangosteen for Her Majesty's consumption. Because of its delicate nature, the reward was never paid.

These days Mangosteens are a bit of a rage among health food proponents, for its high levels of Xanthones, suggested as a cure for a variety of ailments. All of this is of course, unproven. They were banned in the US until 2007, due to a concern about the Asian Fruit Fly and these days irradiated imported fruits are available at a high cost from specialty food importers and as such, are not widely known. There is also a small cultivator in Puerto Rico.

I'm not so sure about their medicinal properties, I just like the way they taste. And much like a Pomegranate, half the fun is getting to the edible part.


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