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May, 2008

Mangosteens Are Here!

By Dennis Linden
Despite the name resemblance, this fruit has absolutely no relation to the mango at all. In fact, its closest plant relative is the herb St. John’s Wort, which only adds more circumstantial evidence to its reputation as being one of nature’s Superfruits.

The Mangosteen is an ultra-tropical fruit that needs extremely humid conditions to grow, which has limited commercial production to a few selected regions in Thailand and Vietnam. This month will begin the first full season that this ancient fruit of the tropics will be allowed into the U.S. marketplace in its fresh form. We expect our first shipments to arrive in mid-May with volume peaking in early July and fruit continuing to be available into September.

This acorn shaped fruit has a bright green calyx (stem cap) and is about the size of a tangerine with a hard outer rind that is deep purple when the fruit inside is ripe. There are typically five to seven opaque white fruit segments inside, similar to citrus sections, with the texture of a very soft plum. The taste is truly unique and therefore very difficult to describe. Canvassing Melissa’s staff members produced a variety of opinions from refreshingly sweet and tangy with citrus overtones to others who tasted hints of pineapple, peach, strawberry and even loquat. What can we say? The fruit tastes and feels exactly like a Mangosteen!

When shopping, look for fruit that is firm with a stem cap that is green and fresh. Avoid fruit that has yellow, sap-like gel pockets; this is a sign that the fruit has absorbed too much moisture that may affect the taste. There is always a cloverleaf shaped scar at one end of the fruit , this was left by the petals of the fruit’s flower. The number of clover segments corresponds to the number of fruit segments inside. Fruit with the most segments will have fewer and smaller seeds. Also, a good taste rule is that the smaller the fruit, the sweeter the fruit.
In researching the Mangosteen’s Superfruit reputation, I found a plethora of sites claiming a dizzying number of health benefits connected to both Mangosteen juice and supplements. It is being sold as a natural energy booster that relieves arthritic pain and inflammation, induces weight loss while it prevents heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, cancers, allergies, depression and kidney stones. The fruit is also supposed to improve mental awareness and digestion, heal mouth sores, lower cholesterol and clear up eye infections. While many health benefits attached to some foods have a bit of antidotal truth to them, we at Melissa’s prefer to focus on providing our retail partners with the finest and freshest fruits and vegetables available in the global marketplace. Count on Melissa’s for quality, freshness and taste. We suggest that each consumer approach all claims of the health benefits that can be derived from any specific food with a degree of skepticism until an informed judgment can be reached based on the evidence available.

It is true that juices made from deep purple, red, and blue fruits such as grapes, cranberries, pomegranates, blueberries and yes, Mangosteens, are all high in antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties. However, that would mean that most of a Mangosteen’s health benefits are contained in its purple, inedible rind. So stick with pomegranate or cranberry juice as a readily available health drink and use the unique Mangosteen fruit for a tasty snack or to impress your dinner guests with the recipes linked to this article that were created by our own Chef Tom Fraker in Melissa’s test kitchen. We have also included step by step instructions on how to best get at this delectable new fruit treat. We will leave others to debate the miracle healing qualities of the Mangosteen, although it is a proven cure for bored taste buds, with a flavor we’ll leave for you to try to describe.