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Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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mangosteen the fruit of a small tree, Garcinia mangostana, native to Malaysia and Indonesia, much cultivated there and wherever else conditions are favourable, e.g. parts of Vietnam (which once had the largest mangosteen orchard in the world), Thailand, Cambodia, Burma, Sri Lanka, and the Philippines.

The tree is slow growing, and difficult to propagate, whether from seed or cuttings. It is also exacting about conditions, needing a hot, wet climate; fertile, well-drained soil; and shade while it is young. However, the reward for successful cultivation is great, witness the following meticulously observed and beautifully written eulogy from Fairchild (1930, as quoted in Popenoe, 1932):

This fruit is about the size of a mandarin orange, round and slightly flattened at each end, with a smooth, thick rind, rich red-purple in colour, with here and there a bright, hardened drop of the yellow juice which marks some injury to the rind when it was young. As these mangosteens are sold in the Dutch East Indies,—heaped up on fruit baskets, or made into long regular bundles with thin strips of braided bamboo,—they are strikingly handsome as anything of the kind could well be, but it is only when the fruit is opened that its real beauty is seen. The rind is thick and tough, and in order to get at the pulp inside, it requires a circular cut with a sharp knife to lift the top half off like a cap, exposing the white segments, five, six, or seven in number, lying loose in the cup. The cut surface of the rind is of a moist delicate pink colour and is studded with small yellow points formed by the drops of exuding juice. As one lifts out of this cup, one by one, the delicate segments, which are the size and shape of those of a mandarin orange, the light pink sides of the cup and the veins of white and yellow embedded in it are visible. The separate segments are between snow white and ivory in colour, and are covered with a delicate network of fibres, and the side of each segment where it presses against its neighbour is translucent and slightly tinged with pale green. The texture of the mangosteen pulp much resembles that of a well-ripened plum, only it is so delicate that it melts in the mouth like a bit of ice-cream. The flavour is quite indescribably delicious. There is nothing to mar the perfection of this fruit, unless it be that the juice from the rind forms an indelible stain on a white napkin. Even the seeds are partly or wholly lacking, and when present are very thin and small.