quite possibly my favourite fruit, ever: mangosteen, garcinia mangostana, from the family guttiferae. its origins have been traced to the malaccas and malaya, and is found throughout southeast asia, but very rarely outside of it. it has been planted with some success in the southern reaches of india, and in the west indies and central america, but attempts to cultivate it in the other americas, africa, and europe have been less than successful. so this, my dear tsogb readers in north america and europe, could possibly be the best fruit you'll never eat.
it is a notoriously picky tree, difficult to grow, temperamental, and the fruit does not travel well. a diva, if you will. however, the mangosteen is a jewel, indeed--a smooth, round ball of deep purple-red to purple black, capped by a citrine calyx and a chartreuse stem. the outer "husk" is smooth and hard, but when ripe, a little light pressure will force it open. if the fruit is unripe or overripe, it is it nearly impossible to open the fruit--it becomes as hard as a rock, and even a good sawing or hard swing of a baseball bat has known to be futile. once inside, though, it reveals the creamy, opaque ivory white segments within, surrounded by a reddish-purpley rind that oozes an acidic yellow latex and a juice that will stain anything it touches horrendously. there are anywhere from four to eight segments in each fruit, the largest one(s) containing a seed, which is only viable for planting within 48 hours of uncovering it.
so what does this elusive fruit taste like? i find that the flavour is reminiscent of every fruit you've ever eaten--a little like peach, strawberry, banana, mango, pineapple, pear, lychee, etcetera--and yet completely indescribable. heat and time destroy the flavour so it's impossible to taste a true mangosteen flavour from canned, dried, or bottled fruit or juice. it is sweet, tempered by a touch of sourness, it is bold, yet completely delicate. is it worth the trouble of planting, obtaining, opening, the acidic latex, and the staining juice? sweet sarah jessica parker! why yes, yes, a thousand times yes! it is.
as it is completely banned from import into the united states and next to impossible to import anywhere else, i suggest anyone interested in trying this lovely gem to take a holiday anywhere mangosteen can be found, from now until september, whilst they are in season. and if you are lucky enough to find the limited edition häagen-dazs mangosteen sorbet, then good goddess, you better contact me, pronto!
fun fact: the number of points on the little flowery star on the bottom of the fruit will tell you how many segments are inside
further reading: market manila's excellent post on this delicious fruit.