The confusingly named mangosteen (Garcinia mangostana) is not related to the mango at all – don’t ask how the name came about because I don’t know.
The mangosteen has such distinctive purply black skin and a green almost comic-book stem, it would be really hard to mistake it for a mango anyway.
Mangosteen season was a highly anticipated time during my childhood, because it usually arrived at the same time as durian season. Mangosteen was the recommended “antidote” if one had overindulged in the “heaty” durian, as the former is considered a “cooling” fruit. If you’d like to read more about the convoluted concept of “heaty” and “cooling” foods, try this. (To be honest, it all sounds like so much goobledygook to me but shh... don’t tell mum! Oops, too late ☺ )
The actual edible part of the mangosteen is quite small in comparison with the overall size of the fruit. The outer peel is quite indigestible and I’ve heard more than one amusing anecdote of unsuspecting first timers trying to take a huge bite out of the fruit as you would an apple!
As kids, we’d love to turn the fruit upside down and count the number of “petals” on the flower shaped bump found at the base of the fruit. This number corresponds with the number of segments found inside the fruit.
There is also a special way to open the fruit. My assistant, Mini-critic Senior, will show you how.
First, cup the fruit upside down in your hands, with your fingers intertwined.
Then very gently squeeze your palms towards each other. Only the lightest pressure is needed to “pop” the skin. If it is really hard to open, it may mean that the fruit is actually unripe.
The fruit should have split open all the way around the middle. Remove the top and enjoy! Be careful though, the sap found in the skin can leave stains on clothing.
It is still relatively hard to find mangosteens because they are a tropical fruit with a short shelf life. When we do find them, during summer, they cost an arm and a leg. Mine cost AUD$2 each! So, no recipe today, because we wanted to enjoy these babies.
Actually, I wouldn’t really do too much to a mangosteen - the flavour is so refreshing (Mr. Kitchen Hand likens it to lemonade), it would be a shame to mask it or distort it in cooking. Having said that, I think the fruit would probably make a very good sorbet . There’s a recipe here if you can afford that many mangosteens ☺
Little Miss Mangosteen: MC Senior met mangosteen for the first time while holidaying at the grandparents place in Malaysia. That's how the fruit is sold, with rope twined around the stems and hung up for display.
And I cannot end this post without referring you to this website pretty much dedicated to the mangosteen.