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The Mangosteen Season has begun!

April 25, 2010

Today I ate my first mangosteen in many months. This aristocratic fruit, with a fantastic balance of sweetness and acidity, fills your mouth with thirst-quenching aromas. The first time I tried mangosteen was in Sweden. I bought some old fruits with a woody peel, and after some struggling with a knife I managed to open one. To my great disappointment the fruit was devoid of acidity, and almost tasteless.

A couple of years later I was in Bangkok, and a Thai friend asked me if I wanted to try mangosteen. I said “no thank you”, referring to my unpleasant experience. My friend said that if the peel was hard, the fruit was too old, and I should give it another try. So my friend opened a fresh fruit just by gently pressing with the fingers, and the peel of the fresh fruit seemed more like blood pudding in both colour and texture, rather than wood. I got a snow-white clove i my mouth and I almost cried of excitement! A fresh mangosteen with its lovely acids is indeed a cooling treat, and should be eaten very fresh.

Unfortunately there are no commercial orchards in Lanna (North of Thailand) due to our long period of drought (six months). At Dokmai Garden we have a specimen that survives thanks to moisturizers and irrigation, but we have to import the fruits from the south of Thailand.

Garcinia mangostana (Clusiaceae) is believed to be a hybrid between G. hombroniana and G. malaccensis, which via chromosome doubling resulted in mangosteen. The origin is probably Malaysia or Indonesia. Male flowers are rare, but female flowers still set fruits with viable seeds. However, these seeds are genetical copies of the mother (apomixis). The trees grow slowly, why only devoted gardeners would start from seeds. In addition, the seed dies if it dries out, and is only viable for a couple of weeks. Mangosteen can be grafted on roots of other Garcinia species, enabling a wider cultivation range. At Dokmai Garden we currently have five species of Garcinia, of which G. cowa is native to Dokmai Garden. That species has edible raw leaves, and the yellow fruits were dried as a food source during the dry season.

Eric Danell

The purplish brown peel, often stained by the typical yellow sap, and its snow-white segments are typical traits of mangosteen.

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