The mangosteen has a purple outer skin, deep red rind, and white inner flesh is segmented similar to an orange. Its scientific name is Garcinia mangostana – not to be confused with garcinia cambogia. It was first “discovered” by a French botanist named Laurent Garcin. Many different plants have his name attached to them.
History of Mangosteen
Mangosteen has been called both the “queen of fruits” and “fruit of the gods”. There’s some debate as to why it’s called the “Queen of Fruits”. Some say it’s because Queen Victoria offered 100 pounds to any explorer that could bring back a fresh mangosteen. However, this has never been proven.
In fact, there’s a rumor that Queen Victoria offered various rewards should anyone be able to provide her with a fresh mangosteen (and, thus, the reason why the mangosteen is called the “queen of fruits”). However, this has not been documented anywhere other than by David Fairchild. No primary sources exist that indicate Queen Victoria ever made such an offer. It’s a nice thought, but there’s still a reason why it’s been called “queen of fruits” and “food of the gods” – that’s likely due to its incredible flavor and outstanding antioxidant profile.
Unfortunately, mangosteen is unable to be transported to most of the world. It’s exceedingly difficult to transport owing to several different factors.
The fruit does not ripen off the tree in the same manner as apricots and peaches. There is only a small amount of time when mangosteen can be picked. They can be kept for a couple of days (even in the refrigerator). Aside from that, they bruise easily and it can make the delicate fruit inside almost inedible.
Until 2002, mangosteen was absent from the American marketplace because at the time, it harbored the devastating Asian fruit fly. In 2002, it was imported as a juice – thus, it had no risk of fruit flies.
Some Asian markets currently carry them, but you’ll pay a premium price in the United States for a “fresh” mangosteen. The fruit is only tolerated within the US now because it’s irradiated if it’s coming from Asia. Some farms located elsewhere are not required to irradiate their mangosteen. So, if you want to try a fresh mangosteen, make sure it hasn’t been subject to radiation first.
Mangosteen is one of those fruits that you’ve got to try in order to be able to understand the flavor. It’s been described countless times as “indescribable.” Some say it’s a delicate mix of peach, pineapple, and strawberry.
A good juice will taste differently from a fresh mangosteen, however. The xanthones (see the benefits section for more details) are concentrated in the rind. A quality mangosteen juice will also include the rind, which ultimately alters the taste.
Where Mangosteen is Grown
The mangosteen tree is one of the more finicky plants in the world. Many people have sought to transplant it over the years, but have been largely unsuccessful. In fact, even the seeds pose an issue. If they dry out, they become infertile.
Due to their soil and climate requirements, mangosteen can only be grown in a few areas.
The image above shows the locations it was originally grown in. Mangosteen trees are now also grown in Puerto Rico, Hawaii, the Ivory Coast, and some countries in South America.
How Mangosteen is Harvested
It is about 10 years before a mangosteen tree produces fruit. The first harvest usually nets about 200 fruits. As the tree ages, more fruit is produced until it’s about 30 years old. Some 30-year-old trees have been reported to produce 2,000 fruits.
Mangosteen becomes ripe in the summer months. During this time, they are either picked by hand or a telescoping pole with a net or basket is used to prize mangosteen from the tree.
How to Eat Mangosteen
Before you ever bite into a mangosteen, you need to know if it’s ripe.
Pick a mangosteen with a healthy, green calyx. Make sure there are no bugs hiding under it (believe me, it’s an incredibly rude surprise you don’t want at home). The skin should be whole (no cracks) and shiny. Avoid a mangosteen that has yellow beads of “sap” on them.
A ripe mangosteen is slightly soft. Please note that whichever ones you pick will need to be eaten relatively quickly as they do not keep long.
It’s important to know that the amount of stigma you see on the fruit indicates the number of segments the mangosteen has inside of it.
Why is this important?
Well, the fewer the sections, the larger they are. The larger they are, the larger the seeds are inside of the mangosteen. A mangosteen with more sections will have smaller seeds – small enough that you may be able to just eat them (or, better yet, they may not have any seeds at all).
In order to open a mangosteen, cut it horizontally roughly halfway between the top of and bottom. You don’t need to go very deep – just a little deeper than the skin. Then twist off the top. You can pick out the white fleshy part with a fork or your fingers.
If you don’t have a knife, it’s pretty much the same process. Instead of using a knife, you just grasp it with both hands and gently twist and pull apart. The skin should crack all the way around the mangosteen making it easy for you to pry out the fruit.
Be mindful that even if there are plenty of sections in your mangosteen, there still may be large sections that have seeds.
Mangosteen Nutrition Facts
Up until this point, everything has been focused on the stark white center. But it’s white. And if there’s anything I hope you’ve learned is that color is the best predictor of antioxidants. For the sake of this argument, we’ll compare apples and oranges.
Apples are red, and oranges are, well, orange. But apples are white on the inside and oranges are again, orange. So it should come as no surprise that oranges have over three times the antioxidant activity of apples.
In a mangosteen, the fruit is white as the driven snow. The rind, however, is a beautiful dark red. So that’s where the antioxidants are – in the rind. Mangosteen, however, is unique in that it is rich in rare antioxidants called xanthones.
Only about 200 xanthones have currently been discovered. Of those 200, mangosteen contains more than 40 xanthones. Xanthones can help support your immune system and help defend against free radicals. [1, 2] In addition to xanthones, mangosteen contains about 12% of your daily vitamin C.
100 g of mangosteen (about a single fruit) can provide you with 13% of your daily fiber requirements. Not only will this support regular bowel movements, you’ll also feel fuller for longer.