December 4, 2009

Mangosteens - Queen of Tropical Fruits

The mangosteen was one of the fruits we had to study in the secondary school science syllabus. I have such fond memories of the fruit and those student days.

The Purple Mangosteen (Garcinia mangostana),is a tropical evergreen tree,  and is definitely native of the Malay Peninsular and the islands around South China Sea.

Interesting facts about the mangosteen can be easily learned when the fruit season comes. I learned that the raised ridges on the bottom of the exocarp, raised ridges (remnants of the stigma), arranged like spokes of a wheel, correspond to the number of aril sections. So as we do not like to eat big seeds we usually try to buy mangosteens with more ridges. Sometimes there are eight of them. More often there are only five. So when there are only five arils you get one with a big seed.

In the past I knew of young men who always tried to impress pretty young girls by asking them to guess how many arils there were in the fruit.  The person who could say the correct number of arils would get a prize. More often than not the clever boys often won the bet. And the girls would be impressed.You can try this trick next year when the mangosteen season arrives.

That's a good way to learn how to count too.

One friend once reminded me that I used to get free mangosteens from his uncle. Did I remember that? Well he reminded me that I used to trick  his uncle who did not know the scientific fact by saying that if I guessed correctly  how many arils in the fruitI would like to have two mangosteens to eat. Well I cannot remember how many free mangosteens I had. (shy lah) But I continued as a young teenager to think that it was advantageous to know science.

Opening a mangosteen is a local skill. One does not really need to have a sharp knife to cut open the fruit. However in restaurants the waiter may first score the shell with a knife and then pry open the fruit to show the white and succulent arils

But when you like to try eating mangosteens as you walk along the village paths you can easily open your fruits. You can hold the fruit in both hands and then give the fruit a twist. The thumbs can crack the fruit easily and you will have two halves of the fruit. Not only that you will  even(when your skill allows) get the arils on one half of the fruit and the top half comes off quite easily!

However you have to be careful. Like when you go out to eat crabs you usually wear a black shirt or t-shirt. So do likewise when you wish to enjoy mangosteens because the skin can leave a bright purple stain. Some hotels actually do not allow mangosteens in the rooms. That's the reason.

Mangosteen being the "Queen of Tropical Fruits" can probably be attributed to one fruit explorer David Fairchild during the reign of Queen Victoria.

The juvenile mangosteen fruit, which does not require fertilization to form (see agamospermy), first appears as pale green or almost white in the shade of the canopy. As the fruit enlarges over the next two to three months, the exocarp color deepens to darker green. During this period, the fruit increases in size until its exocarp is 6–8 centimeters in outside diameter, remaining hard until a final, abrupt ripening stage.

Mangosteens have very thick and pretty and easily identifiable shiny leaves.

You can see there are six ridges at the bottom of this fruit.

The young fruits are well hidden by the green leaves. So often you have to lift leaves up to see the new fruits. It gives you a very satisfying feeling when you can find lots of them under the leaves. At this stage no squirrels are around. They know without any one sending out smoke signals.(Smile)

The fruits on the trees do not ripe all at the same time. So this is nice about the mangosteens. Are the earlier fruits less sweet than the later fruits? May be you will have to find that out. this is an early ripened fruit for my picking. (My left hand)

Here is another one but not quite ripe yet. I will leave it alone. There are lots of mangosteens at knee level. So I had to squat to have a look at them. The branches start growing from about 2 feet.

(This is shy Roland standing next to a mangosteen tree and he has just plucked a fruit for me - from a branch that is chest high and under all those leaves there were many ripening fruits. A ripe fruit comes off the branch easily...thus "ripe for the picking". Actually at first I saw only green mangosteens but his sharp eyes could already see the ripe ones. )

Hope we can all enjoy mangosteens for many years to come. And I do hope that other countries in the world can enjoy this tropical fruit.

Source :

JPS Farm in Bekenu.
 Rahman (our oil palm and fruit expert )

(P/s Thanks to Jeffery and his friends I had a lovely walk in the 20 acre farm one beautiful Saturday not too long ago.
Pp/s Apologies to Jay if my mangosteens appear earlier than his posting)


Anonymous said...

the skin is highly valued for its antioxidants. USA has a drink of specially processed skin.

Daniel Yiek

wenn said...

wow..i love mangosteen..sweet sour..

Ann said...

I didn't get to eat mangoesteen when I was young. My family think that sugar and mangoesteen have the same reaction as alcohol and durian.

So when I became an adult, I ate to my hearts content.

Didn't know baout eating crabs and wearing dark clothes. But I soon learn, when I eat out , don't wear light coloured clothing. Always have nasty accidents of spills.

Greenspot said...

Hi Sarawakiana,

Heard that the yellowish latex is used in the treatment of pimples. Also heard that mangosteen and sugar do not mixed like durian and alcohol. but Ihave also heard people mixed alocohol and durian without any effect ot harm. But then someone told me that it is harmful for some but not for others depending on people.


Superman said...

Never know it grow like that. saw some selling in supermarket just now but didn't get any. too sweet.

Ah Ngao said...

yeah,when we were young our parents warns us of taking sweets after eating mangosteen - mati nanti.i didnt try but some of my friends took sweets afetr eating mangosteen and nothing happened,..hehe

Uncle Lee said...

Hi Sarawakania, I just learned something today. That the mangosteen is 'the queen of tropical fruits'. I have 'the king' right now in our fridge....I eat it half frozen, like ice cream....out of this world!
Love your pics, beautiful.
Have a beautiful Sunday, Lee.

SJ said...

didnt know it's green at 1st

A smile from SJ =)

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi Daniel
Yes the special mangosteen drink is selling like hot cakes here and very pricey too!! Lots of promotion in the last year or so.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Wenn
Thanks for visiting. Mangosteens are usually sweet - sometimes too sweet. Occasionally too sour when not really that ripe....nowadays they have become smaller.
May be in West Malaysia - bigger?

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi Ann
I am I usually wear dark clothes...hahahah..We were told too when young not to eat sweets and mangosteens together . Can die. So being scared...we avoided sweets and sugar. No one died.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Greenspot
Thanks for dropping by.
I think by nature we Asians are very careful where taboos are concerned. Like drinking and durians don't mix...I have actually come across such cases. Usually it is due to too much gas in the stomach.

I once took durians and coca cola in Sematan...and had the same problem...Two panadols down to help me created more problems...and you can imagine all my lady friends started screaming....that was a long time ago...until someone tried to make me vomit out the durians...From then on I would not eat more than two seeds of durians...Just in Case...

Not sure about "depending on people...." Just have to be careful

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Superman - you have a good reason not to buy mangosteen - too sweet. I heard a young mother once screaming at her kids..."Don't eat these fruits...they are kampong fruits...too old fashion!!" I would always remember the looks on the kids' face...

My jaws of course almost dropped.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Ah Ngao...some people are really lucky!! Never challenge nature...

Thanks for dropping by.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Uncle Lee
Sunday is relaxing...and great...went for photo shooting and got some rare shots...just my cup of tea...the jungle trekking was good too..
Hope you have a great week ahead...
And hope you still have lots of durians in your freezer...

Sarawakiana@2 said...


Nice of you to visit...I am smiling!! Thankis.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

thankis---sorry I was thinking of Mangis in exchange for smiles...

Anonymous said...

Hi Cikgu
Nice to see photos of mangosteens. My grandmother has two old old trees in her kampong house. We cannot bear to cut them now we do have some small fruits . They are very sweet.

Do you know that my grandmother also dry the skin and I think my grandmother uses them for some kind of medicine. Sometimes smoke over the wood fire too...I will ask her one day.

I think mangosteens should be grown. (K)

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi K
I heard from Jay that mangosteen trees can live up to 100 years and believe me this is indeed true bevause my relatives have trees which have been planted by their grandfathers.

I think some topping up of soils and drainage and some fertilizers may help to rejuvenate the trees.

People are re-discovering mangosteens. I have loved mangosteens faithfully.

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