Imbe: The Queen Of Fruits

The tropical fruit Imbe, famously called the Queen of Fruits, is indigenous to tropical Africa. Its petite size resembles a plum, while the juicy flesh exhibits a delectable sweet-tart taste.

What is an Imbe Fruit?

The Imbe fruit (Garcinia livingstonei) is a small, spherical fruit categorized under the Clusiaceae family. It’s also called African mangosteen, Livingstone’s garcinia, or lowveld mangosteen. Its natural habitat is southern Africa, predominantly in Malawi, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe.

Before it matures, the fruit is characterized by soft, greenish-yellow skin that transforms into yellow-orange hues upon ripening. The fruit tree can grow 6–18 m tall in full sun. Imbe is dioecious; male and female trees are required to produce fruit.

Its size is comparable to a cherry tomato, while its thin outer layer is equally edible. The succulent flesh is mildly acidic, with a tangy citrus flavor featuring a blend of tangerine and lime notes.

The History of Imbe Fruit

The Imbe fruit, indigenous to Southern Africa, has a deep-seated historical and cultural significance. This bright orange fruit, thought to have originated from Mozambique, flourished in the area’s warm climate. Today, the small evergreen tree is cultivated in southern Florida, Southeast Asia, and Cuba.

As the scope of international trade widened, Imbe fruit expanded in importance and gained popularity outside Africa’s borders. It played a significant role in economic growth, building trade relationships across nations. 

Apart from its economic impact, Imbe fruit holds immense cultural importance. It has been integrated into ice creams, jams, and milkshakes.

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Ripe imbe growing on a branch, ready to be harvested.

What Does an Imbe Fruit Taste Like?

The Imbe fruit boasts a tart and acidic raw taste similar to a blend of mango and citrus fruits. Upon being cooked, its flavor mellows and sweetens.

How to Tell When Imbe is Ripe


When choosing ripe fruits, choose those with a vibrant orange or yellow hue. Avoid fruits with bruises, mold, or blemishes. Opt for firm fruits that yield slightly when gently pressed and have a fruity aroma.

Cooking with Imbe Fruit

Preparation of Imbe fruit before cooking is imperative.

  1. The initial vital step is to rinse the fruit under flowing water to eliminate dirt.
  2. Cut the fruit in half with a sharp knife.
  3. Remove the seeds, as they are not edible.
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Add imbe to your favorite mango chutney recipe for added tangy and citrusy flavor notes.

Here are three dishes you can prepare with Imbe.

Fruit Chutney: This tangy and spicy chutney pairs well with grilled meats, sandwiches, or a dip. To make it, combine Imbe with spices, sugar, vinegar, and other ingredients. 

Fruit Jam: This sweet and vibrant jam is perfect for spreading on toast or filling for pastries. To make imbe fruit jam, cook the fruit with sugar and lemon juice until it reaches a thick consistency. 

Hot Curried Fruit: You can use imbe fruit to prepare delicious curried fruit. The tangy flavor of the fruit balances well with the spices and creates a unique taste. Replace one fruit with imbe fruit and combine it with vegetables, spices, and coconut milk for a flavorful curry.

How to Store Imbe Fruit

When storing the fruit on the counter, exclude direct sunlight and high heat while maintaining room temperature, extending its shelf life to five days. 

Refrigeration is ideal for longer-term preservation, increasing the fruit’s shelf life to one to two weeks. The proper freezing technique involves thoroughly washing and drying the fruit, followed by storage in a freezer bag or an airtight container. Imbe will last for six months stored frozen.

Lastly, the fruit can be dried by slicing and dehydrating it. When correctly done, the fruit can last for several months.

Nutritional Benefits of Imbe

Imbe boasts numerous health benefits contributing to overall health and well-being. Its vitamin C content enhances the immune system, promotes collagen synthesis, and aids in iron absorption. 

Its fiber content supports digestive health by maintaining bowel regularity and preventing constipation. Imbe has essential minerals such as potassium, which helps regulate blood pressure levels, and manganese, vital for bone development and enzyme function. 

With vitamin C’s ability to support cardiovascular health and lessen the risk of contracting chronic diseases, and fiber’s capacity to diminish the likelihood of heart disease, this edible fruit undoubtedly deserves its status as a nutritional powerhouse.

Where to Purchase Imbe Fruit

Imbe fruit can be purchased at specialty stores and farmers’ markets, with varying availability based on the region.

This fruit is predominantly cultivated in tropical areas, where it is more readily accessible. You can easily find the fruit during its prime season, usually spanning the summer months.


Tabitha is a freelance writer with love for food and drinks. She loves gardening and is always looking for new ways to get more fresh produce. She also loves animals and has dairy goats, chicken, sheep, a dog, and a cat at her home.

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