Mangosteen: The Tropical Treasure of Southeast Asia

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Mangosteen is a tropical fruit that is native to Southeast Asia and is known for its sweet and tangy flavor. It is often called the "queen of fruits" due to its delicious taste, numerous health benefits, and anti-inflammatory effects.

What is a Mangosteen?

A mangosteen, scientifically known as Garcinia mangostana L., is a tropical evergreen tree native to Southeast Asia. It is sometimes called the “queen of fruits” or “purple mangosteen” due to its royal reputation and distinct purple color.

The fruit is small, round, and usually measures 2 to 3 inches (5-7.5 cm) in diameter. Its thick, tough outer rind is deep purple, while its juicy, segmented white flesh is soft and aromatic.

It is now cultivated in various tropical regions, including Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and some parts of South America and the Caribbean. You can also find Mangosteen in Jamaica, Guatemala, Puerto Rico, Honduras, Panama, and Ecuador.

The general flavor profile of the mangosteen fruit can be described as a delightful combination of sweet and tangy, with a hint of creaminess. The taste is often compared to a mix of lycheepeach, and pineapple. The soft, juicy texture and refreshing taste make it a popular choice for fresh consumption and incorporation into various culinary dishes and beverages, especially in Asian recipes.

The outer layer of a mangosteen fruit has many natural chemicals, such as xanthones and tannins, that make it taste bitter and dry. These chemicals protect the fruit from being attacked by insects (like fruit flies), viruses, fungi, bacteria, and animals.

The History of Mangosteen

In Southeast Asia’s tropical landscapes, two fruits held court over the vibrant flora and fauna. Their royal titles were the “King of Fruits” and the “Queen of Fruits.” The mighty King, Durian, had a robust and bold aroma, and his queen, Mangosteen, boasted an irresistibly sweet taste.

It was the European explorers who discovered these mystical fruits. While they were charmed with the enticing sweetness of mangosteen, the fruit was highly perishable.

A rumor started that Queen Victoria would handsomely reward anyone who could present her with this tantalizing fruit. It’s said that’s how the Mangosteen got the title of the “Queen of Fruits.”

Mangosteen’s storied past can be traced back to its origin in the verdant regions of Malaysia and the Sunda Islands of Indonesia. The fruit was cultivated in Thailand and Burma, and in the mid-1800s, English horticulturists introduced it into their greenhouses. From there, it traveled across the Atlantic to the West Indies and Central America.

However, Mangosteen proved to be a demanding fruit: The United States Department of Agriculture received seeds from Java in 1906, brought by food explorer David Fairchild. But it required particular conditions, mainly a tropical environment with high humidity and temperatures.

Despite efforts to grow the fruit in California and Florida, Mangosteen’s reign in the United States was short-lived. And so, the Queen of Fruits continues to thrive mainly in her tropical realm alongside her beloved King, Durian.

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A ripe mangosteen ready to be harvested.

What Does a Mangosteen Taste Like?

When eaten raw, Mangosteen has a juicy and refreshing taste, often described as a combination of flavors, such as strawberry, peach, and vanilla. The fruit’s flesh is soft and delicate, with a texture similar to that of lychee or a grape.

Mangosteen is not typically cooked, as the fruit is best enjoyed fresh. However, the fruit can be an ingredient in desserts and drinks, such as sorbets, smoothies, and cocktails. Mangosteen adds a sweet and aromatic flavor that complements other fruits and ingredients in these recipes.

Note: Mangosteen has a thick, purple rind that is not edible. To eat the fresh fruit, cut through the rind with a sharp knife and then pry open the fruit to reveal the soft, white flesh inside.

How to Tell When Mangosteen is Ripe

Here are some visual characteristics to look for when determining if Mangosteen is ripe:

ColorRipe Mangosteen has a deep reddish-purple color, indicating that the fruit is ready to eat.
TextureThe skin of ripe Mangosteen should be firm and slightly springy when pressed gently. Avoid fruits that have soft or mushy spots, which may indicate overripeness or spoilage.
ScentA ripe mangosteen has a fragrant, sweet aroma, which is a good indication of its ripeness. Avoid fruits with no scent or unpleasant odors.
SmoothnessThe outer skin of ripe Mangosteen should be smooth and unblemished. Rough or wrinkled skin may indicate that the fruit is not fresh.

Why Is Mangosteen So Rare

There are a lot of reasons why mangosteens are hard to find.

First, mangosteen trees are highly sensitive to their environment, requiring specific conditions to grow and produce fruit. They thrive in consistently warm and humid climates, with temperatures between 25-30°C and adequate rainfall. They cannot tolerate frost or prolonged periods of drought. These specific requirements limit the regions where Mangosteen can be cultivated, primarily to countries in Southeast Asia like Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines.  

Mangosteen trees are also slow-growing, often taking up to 10-15 years before they start producing fruit. This long maturation period makes it more challenging to maintain a steady supply of fruit in the market. 

Some countries, such as the United States, have stringent import regulations to prevent the introduction of foreign pests and diseases. Fresh Mangosteen was banned in the US until 2007, and even now, it must undergo specific treatments before import, adding to the overall cost and reducing the fruit’s availability. 

Mangosteens are delicate fruits with a short shelf-life, making it difficult to transport them over long distances without spoilage or damage. This further limits the availability of mangosteens in regions where they are not grown, increasing their rarity and price. 

Cooking with Mangosteen

Mangosteen is a tropical fruit native to Southeast Asia known for its sweet and tangy flavor. It is commonly used in traditional cuisines from countries such as Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. Here are some tips for preparing and cooking Mangosteen:

  1. Choose ripe mangosteens that are firm, with a deep purple skin that gives slightly when pressed.
  2. Cut around the circumference of the fruit’s tough outer rind, careful not to cut too deeply into the white inner flesh.
  3. Gently twist the two halves of the fruit, revealing the white pulp inside. Discard the rind and any seeds.
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Mangosteen makes for an excellent base and garnish for cocktails.

Here are three examples of dishes that feature Mangosteen:

Mangosteen Panna Cotta: This silky dessert is so luxurious you’ll feel like royalty indulging in it. And with the addition of Mangosteen, the queen of fruits, you’ll be on a culinary throne fit for a king.

Mangosteen Pie: This tangy, sweet, and downright addictive mangosteen pie will have you reaching for a second slice before you even finish the first.

Mangosteen Smoothie with Coconut: This tropical delight is the ultimate thirst-quencher. The combination of sweet Mangosteen and creamy coconut creates a refreshing and satisfying drink that is perfect for any time of day. Plus, it’s a great way to get your daily dose of vitamins and antioxidants.

Mangosteen Martini: Forget the classic olive; it’s time to up your martini game with the exotic flavor of Mangosteen. Sip on this fruity concoction and imagine yourself lounging on a tropical beach surrounded by the lush greenery of the jungle. 

How to Store Mangosteen

To store Mangosteen, you can use the following techniques:

On the CounterKeep mangosteens in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. They can last for about one week at room temperature.
In the FridgePlace mangosteens in a perforated plastic bag or container in the crisper drawer. This method can extend their shelf life to around 2-3 weeks.
FrozenPeel and deseed the Mangosteen, then store the fruit segments in an airtight container or freezer bag. Frozen mangosteens can last up to 6 months.
DriedDehydrate the mangosteen segments using a dehydrator or oven on low heat until thoroughly dried. Store the dried mangosteens in an airtight container in a cool, dark place. They can last for several months, depending on the storage conditions.

Note: The actual shelf life of Mangosteen may vary depending on factors such as the fruit’s ripeness and storage conditions.

Nutritional Benefits of Mangosteen

Mangosteen is an incredible fruit that has a lot of health benefits. It’s been used in traditional medicine in Southeast Asia, especially for wounds and skin infections.

It is a rich source of essential nutrients like potassium, calcium, dietary fiber, and vitamin C, which are necessary for maintaining good health and a healthy immune system.

Mangosteen doesn’t have cholesterol, helping prevent the risk of type 2 diabetes ad heart issues. More specifically, some studies show that mangosteen extract can significantly reduce insulin resistance. Vitamin C helps with healing cuts and bruises, as well as fighting off colds.

The fiber helps stabilize blood sugar while also improving digestion.

It also contains antioxidants that can help fight free radicals, making it have anticancer properties. They also don’t have cholesterol, helping prevent the risk of type 2 diabetes ad heart issues.

Furthermore, Mangosteen has anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce inflammation levels. Chronic inflammation can lead to various health problems, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s. 

Moreover, Mangosteen has medicinal properties and is used in medicines like metratrim and gel to help with obesity and weight issues.

Note: Studies on the health benefits of Mangosteen are still limited. Mangosteen medicine should not be used during pregnancy or breastfeeding due to insufficient evidence of its safety. People with bleeding disorders should also avoid it. Consult a healthcare professional before consuming too much.

Where to Purchase Mangosteen

In regions where Mangosteen is grown, such as Southeast Asia, you can find it at local farmers’ markets. If you’re visiting or living in these areas, this is the best way to purchase fresh Mangosteen.

Check with local markets and grocery stores in your area, as they may carry Mangosteen when it’s in season, typically from May to September. Some specialty stores stock mangosteen and other exotic fruits – if not fresh, at least in other forms (such as mangosteen juice or supplements)


Alexandra is a passionate writer who reveres exploring exotic fruit from far-off lands. While she’d like to one day live in a tropical paradise, she reserves that for her palate for now: from the tartness of the tamarind to the sweetness of the mangosteen. She invites others to join her on this journey of discovery, where every fruit is a new adventure.

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