Gossamer Tapestry

Reflections on conservation, butterflies, and ecology in the nation's heartland

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Miraculous Mangosteen*

*With apologies to Bela Bartok

Six years ago, the New York Times ran a story on an exotic fruit called the mangosteen. The author waxed rhapsodic about the incredible taste of this Asian beauty that was unavailable in the US. I've craved one ever since. My recent trip to Malaysia represented my first opportunity to try them. At the risk of sounding like a 14-year-old girl, OMG, OMG, OMG!

Mangosteens are about the size of tennis balls. The outer skin has a very similar texture and toughness to that of a pomegranate. It's inedible- the delicious part lies hidden within. The blossom scar on the bottom is lobed, and the number of lobes corresponds to the number of segments of the inner fruit. Mangosteens are challenging to eat. The outer, inedible flesh is red, and it's juice stains. The inner fruit is very sticky and juicy, but the whole thing is so incredibly worthwhile that this hardy merits mentioning.

The segments of the inner fruit separate like those of a citrus, which is not even remotely related. The largest, (or occasionally two largest, as in this photo) segment contains a single seed, which is surrounded by a rich, fragrant and flavorful jelly. The smaller segments consist of the jellylike pulp with no seed.

I can't begin to describe the flavor. It's sweet and scented, though not cloying. There is no tartness like one might find in a kiwi, yet there's a bright, refreshing quality to the flavor. And, like the kiwi, it's tempting to describe the flavor as a combination of other fruits- yet in the end, it just tastes like mangosteen. I've waited six years to try this, and it lived up to expectations.

The other interesting fruit that I sampled on my trip was the rambutan, a relative of the lychee. The leathery skin is coated with pliable spines, that aren't at all sharp. The skin is easily ripped open with the fingers.

The white fruit within is about twice the size and the same texture as a peeled grape. There is a single seed within.

Rambutans are much easier to eat than mangosteens. Sweet and juicy, they are delicious in their own right, though they lack the startling complexity of flavor of the latter fruit.

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At 22:06, Blogger T.R. said...

I love it! When I was in China for four months last year I wrote a blog post "of mangosteens and rambutans". Great minds...

I could not even begin to explain what eating a mangosteen was like. In short - food orgasm. I want one right now!

At 22:37, Anonymous Mike said...

Very cute shots... yummy :)

At 23:30, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A mouth watering article! (...he says, as he reaches for a persimmon)

At 05:49, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are such an adventurous sole Doug. {:)

At 08:19, Blogger Kirk said...

It always seems the really good fruit, is the one that's out of reach.
Did you manage to try a Durian?

At 12:32, Blogger Doug Taron said...

T.R.- I know. I want one right now, too.

Mike- Thanks. They were selling them right outside of where you work. You could wander out and buy one any time you want to. I'm envious.

Bones- Welcome to the Tapestry. Interesting that you would comment on persimmons. I like them, yet they stand so much in contrast with mangosteens. Good in an entirely different way.

Roy- I enjoy my travels!

Kirk- I did, in fact, try durian. Yucko. I thought it tasted as bad as it smelled. I also tried a couple of varieties of jackfruit. It's similar to durian but without the bad smell. It was OK- but I wouldn't rush out to get more.

At 12:51, Blogger Gaelyn said...

The rambutan looks easier to eat than the mangosteen. But after this mouth watering description I'll be looking for it. How fun to try new foods when traveling.

At 13:47, Anonymous Mark H said...

Dr. T! Sometimes I'm so very proud to know you. You are one of my dear friends who will take a trip to Asia for completely different reasons and report back on something exotic like this. THANKS to Doug! Mangosteens....now WHERE the heck will they be in Portland. Sounds like an adventure to me.

At 21:49, Blogger Doug Taron said...

Gaelyn- Rambutans are delicious, and way easier to eat than mangosteens. Just not quite as tasty.

Mark- You may not be able to get them in Portland. I have heard rumors that they have started to become available in very small numbers in a couple of US markets. Although it's not terribly close, I think they are available in Vancouver.

At 22:40, Blogger Ur-spo said...

I have never heard of either. They both look quite alien

At 03:29, Blogger Dev Wijewardane said...

love both the fruits. the first shot is great.

At 10:12, Blogger Dave Coulter said...

The apples in my kitchen just don't seem so cool anymore, hahaha

At 18:03, Blogger Kathiesbirds said...

Wow doug, it all sound wonderful. Too bad you couldn't bring some back with you!

BTW, your co-worker, Celeste, is now appearing on my blog!

At 08:13, Blogger Floridacracker said...

Sounds amazing.
Don't forget to send me a snail mail address so I can send you a few coontie seeds... and the datil seeds I forgot to give you back at Cedar Key Scrub.

At 03:53, Blogger Sunita said...

Mmmmm...mangosteens! Love them!The flavour is so 'clean'. Like a splash in a cool waterfall on a hot day. I've planted two saplings in my garden and I just cant wait for them to start bearing fruit.
Rambutans are great too but in my opinion, once you've had a mangosteen, you're spoiled for any other fruit!

At 18:33, Anonymous myamuhnative said...

Ahhhh,Mangosteen! the King of Fruits.
I tasted my first from a tree in the yard of a local fruit legend about 10 years ago and I have longed for them since then.
Then lo and behold, last year I heard rumor of fresh Mangosteens at the local Asian store and indeed found them for $20 a bag (maybe 10 small ones).
They are imported by an exotic fruit company that markets unsual fruits in grocery stores-and for the life of me I can't remember the name ( it was a womans name).
If I can remember the name I'll let you know.

At 18:46, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Googled it!
Pricy but for a special occasion,might be worth while.


At 21:12, Blogger Doug Taron said...

Spo= They are aliens from the planet Scrumptodelicious.

Dev- Thanks and welcome to the Tapestry.

Kathie- heading right over to check out Celeste and make sure she was behaving herself (who am I kidding, Celeste never behaves herself).

FC- Thanks for the reminder.

Sunita- Welcome to the Tapestry. Excellent poetic description of the mangosteen. I checked out your blog. Nice!

myamuhnative- Excellent mangosteen story. Thanks for the tip. Apparently they are just starting to make an appearance in this country. A friend gave me one this past week. Sadly, not a patch on the fresh ones I had in Penang- but there's hope for more mangosteens in my future now.

At 12:54, Blogger Homer said...

I am jealous.


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