Where is the Mangosteen Source?

Is there just one mangosteen source in the world? It used to be but with the recent publicity the mangosteen fruit has gained, it is being grown in a number of places today.

The mangosteen (Garcinia mangostana) is a tropical evergreen tree, believed to have originated in the Sunda Islands and the Moluccas. The tree grows from 7 to 25 m (20-80 ft) tall. If there is to be a mangosteen description in a few words, what stands out as prominent would be the rind (exocarp) of the edible fruit, which is deep reddish purple when ripe. Botanically an aril, the fragrant edible flesh can be described as sweet and tangy, citrusy with peach flavor and texture. Mangosteen is closely related to other edible tropical fruits such as button mangosteen and lemondrop mangosteen. Botanically, it bears no relation to the mango.

The juvenile mangosteen fruit, which does not require fertilization to form, first appears as pale green or almost white in the shade of the canopy. As the fruit enlarges over the next two to three months, the exocarp color deepens to darker green. During this period, the fruit increases in size until its exocarp is 6–8 centimeters in outside diameter, remaining hard until a final, abrupt ripening stage.

The mangosteen and minerals of the mangosteen exocarp comprises an array of polyphenolic acids including xanthones and tannins that assure astringency to discourage infestation by insects, fungi, plant viruses, bacteria and animal predation while the fruit is immature. Color changes and softening of the exocarp are natural processes of ripening that indicates the fruit can be eaten and the seeds are finished developing.

Mangosteen produces a recalcitrant seed, i.e., perishable, short-lived and must be kept moist to remain viable until germination. Technically nucellar in origin and not the result of fertilization, mangosteen seeds germinate as soon as they are removed from the fruit and die quickly if allowed to dry.

Once the developing mangosteen fruit has stopped expanding, chlorophyll synthesis slows as the next color phase begins. Initially streaked with red, the exocarp pigmentation transitions from green to red to dark purple, indicating a final ripening stage. This entire process takes place over a period of ten days as the edible quality of the fruit peaks.

The edible endocarp of the mangosteen is botanically defined as an aril with the same shape and size as a tangerine 4–6 centimeters in diameter, but is white. The circle of wedge-shaped arils contains 4–8 segments, the larger ones harboring apomictic seeds that are unpalatable unless roasted.

Mangosteen Source

Often described as a subtle delicacy, the arils bear an exceptionally mild aroma, quantitatively having about 400 times fewer chemical constituents than fragrant fruits, explaining its relative mildness. Main volatile components having caramel, grass and butter notes as part of the mangosteen source fragrance are hexyl acetate, hexenol and α-copaene.

On the bottom of the exocarp, raised ridges (remnants of the stigma), arranged like spokes of a wheel, correspond to the number of aril sections. Mangosteens reach fruit-bearing in as little as 5–6 years, but more typically require 8–10 years.

Mangosteen and Minerals, Antioxidant Strength
Mangosteen Cut Open Mangosteen fruit is typically advertised and marketed as part of an emerging category of novel functional foods sometimes called "superfruits" presumed to have a combination of

1) appealing subjective characteristics, such as taste, fragrance and visual qualities,
2) nutrient richness,
3) antioxidant strength and
4) potential impact for lowering risk against human diseases.

The aril is the flavorful part of the fruit but when analyzed specifically for its nutrient content the mangosteen aril only meets the first criterion above, as its overall nutrient profile is absent of important content, it contains no pigmentation (correspondingly, no antioxidant phytochemicals in significant concentration) and there is no scientific evidence of aril constituents having any health properties.

Mangosteen Cut Open

Purée or juice from arils combined with exocarp phenolic extracts produces juice having purple color and astringency like the exocarp pigments, including xanthones under study for potential anti-cancer effects on mouse mammary tissue in vitro. As the research of benefits derived from xanthones is still on going, exactly why and how the fruit worked as a healing agent in traditional medicine for a variety of ailments is slowly building up, and generating much interest in the scientific community.

Mangosteen Fruit Legend, Geographic Origins and Culinary Applications
There is a legend about Queen Victoria offering a reward to anyone who could deliver to her the fabled fruit.

An ultra-tropical tree, the mangosteen must be grown in consistently warm conditions, as exposure to temperatures below 40°F (4°C) will generally kill a mature plant.

Due to ongoing restrictions on imports, mangosteen fruit is not commonly available to the public. Following export from the primary mangosteen source in Southeast Asia, the fresh fruit is available seasonally in some local markets like those of Chinatowns and rarely in produce sections of grocery stores in North America and Europe. Mangosteen fruit and its related products, such as juices and nutritional supplements, are legally imported into the United States which had an import ban until 2007.

Mangosteens are readily available canned and frozen in Western countries. Without fumigation or irradiation as fresh fruit, mangosteens have historically been illegal for importation in commercial volumes into the United States due to fears that they harbor the Asian fruit fly which would endanger U.S. crops. This situation, however, officially changed on July 23, 2007 when irradiated imports from Thailand, a primary mangosteen source, were allowed upon USDA approval of irradiation, packing and shipping techniques.

From 2006 to present, private small volume orders from fruits grown on Puerto Rico, another mangosteen source, are being filled for American gourmet restaurants who serve the aril pieces as a delicacy dessert. Beginning in 2007 for the first time, fresh mangosteen fruits are also being sold for as high as $45 per pound from specialty produce stores in New York City.

Before ripening, the mangosteen fruit shell is fibrous and firm, but becomes soft and easy to pry open when the fruit ripens. To open a mangosteen fruit, the shell is usually scored first with a knife; one holds the fruit in both hands, prying gently along the score with the thumbs until the rind cracks. It is then easy to pull the halves apart along the crack and remove the fruit, taking care with the purple, inky exocarp juice containing pigments that are an avid dye on skin and fabric.

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