The Magic Of Mangosteens
“Oh My God! Turn around!” I squeal.
What?What?” Rafa has an edge of panic to his voice.
“I think I just saw mangosteens back at that fruit stand!”
Rafa slows the car, and looks at me. “You saw what?”
“Mangosteens. I NEED some.” I implore with all the drama I can muster. I rarely pull the puppy-eye look, but I bat my lashes for all they are worth.
“Wow. Okay.” he chuckles and I beam at him, giddy with excitement.
Judging from Rafa’s reaction, I am guessing mangosteens, Garcinia mangostana, are relatively new here, and unless you’re Southeast Asian, these would be odd to the rest of the world too. Luckily, I have had some interesting jobs and I was introduced to these lovely fruits over a decade ago. In fact, I almost came to blows with a co-worker over these lovely fruits. Mangosteens are a dark purple fruit about 2 to 3 inches in diameter, about the size of a tangerine, and are not related to mangos. The hard rind can be nearly one inch thick but easily cut. At the center is the soft opaque white fruit, which resembles a head of garlic but the taste….it’s out of this world. It’s a delicate sweet and tangy dance on your tongue. It’s glorious!
In fact, there is a legend about Queen Victoria offering a reward of 100 pounds of sterling to anyone who could deliver to her the fresh fruit. Here it’s only $3 a kilo! WooHoo! Due to restrictions on imports, mangosteens are not readily available in certain countries, especially the US. They only way to taste this ambrosia stateside is either frozen or in juice form and both are wickedly expensive.
Touted as a “superfruit”, mangosteen properties are often attributed to the xanthone content; a class of polyphenolic compounds commonly occuring in plants and have been shown to have extensive biological and pharmacological activities. Over 200 naturally occurring xanthones have been identified so far and approximately 40 of those are found in the mangosteen. Xanthones appear to possess numerous potential beneficial properties such as, “antiallergic, anti-inflammatory, antituberculotic, antitumor, antiplatelet, Betaadrenergic blocking and … anticonvulsant” properties. (Marona H, Pekala E, Filipek B, Maciag D, Szneler E. Pharmacological properties of some aminoalkanolic derivatives of xanthone. Pharmaxie. 2001;56:567-572). These are more potent than Vitamin C or Vitamin E. Mangosteen also contains Garcinone-E, which researchers suggest may be useful for the treatment of certain types of cancer. Who knows? They taste damn good and that is all I care about. In fact, Costa Rica (probably due to the HUGE influence of China) has been growing mangosteens and rambutan. This place just keeps getting better and better!
I suppose you could make something out of these like a drink or a sorbet…OMG MANGOSTEEN BEER!…but lets face it…I ate them all, one after another and poor Rafa, bless his heart, only ate one.