Mangosteen, Garcinia mangostana, also known as Purple Mangosteen, is usually referred to as mangosteen. It is a tropical evergreen tree that grows from 20-80 feet tall. It is believed to have originated in the Sunda and Moluccas Islands in Indonesia. It is a decidedly tropical tree and will die if the temperature drops below 40 degrees for more than a few days. It also can take years to get mangosteen trees to fruit and they don’t necessarily fruit consistently.
The mangosteen’s thick rind is deep reddish purple with a green stem and overlapping top. Botanically, it is an aril (small single seeds with fleshy fruit around them). Inside the rind, the flesh is white and is about the size and shape of a tangerine, with four to eight segments. The fruit is sweet, tangy and citrusy, with flavor and texture similar to a peach. Recently I found some mangosteens in a market in San Francisco. The fruit segments inside the thick rind are small but absolutely delicious!
The fruit begins as white and slowly develops color as it ripens. Before ripening, the mangosteen shell is fibrous and firm, but becomes soft and easy to pry open when the fruit ripens. To open a mangosteen, the shell is usually scored first with a knife. By prying gently along the scored edges, the rind will finally crack and the fruit can then easily be opened. The juice from the rind can stain clothing and skin, and is apparently extremely difficult, if not impossible, to remove from clothes.
Mangosteen is considered a superfruit because of its high nutritional value. However, in some of the mangosteen juices available on the market, parts of the rind are included, and the rind contains xanthones, which can be toxic if ingested daily.
There have been heavy restrictions for importing mangosteens because of the Asian fruit fly. These restrictions have been eased in the last few years. While it is rare and difficult to find fresh mangosteens in markets in the U.S., they can be found either canned or frozen. In my experience, mangosteens may be delicious but they are very expensive.