When I first arrived in Townsville from Melbourne I investigated the “exotic” tropical fruits with cautious enthusiasm until I had tried most of what was readily available. Many of them, I decided, weren’t worth eating: I thought soursops, for instance, were like cotton wool soaked in lemon juice. Others were better than that but not better than the familiar European fruit – black sapote comes to mind – and never became regular items in the fruit bowl. Others again, like custard apples, were good enough to grab whenever they came our way or, like bananas and pineapples, were already part of our diet.
In the last few months I have renewed my exploration of the exotics, partly because I so enjoyed the unfamiliar local food in Laos last year and partly because I have become more interested in growing and eating local produce. Last time around I somehow missed mangosteens – I knew the name but not the fruit – so when I saw some on a Cotters Market stall last week I grabbed them.
Each fruit is about the size of a large plum or smallish nectarine. The very dark purple skin is quite hard and leathery, and cutting into it is like cutting into a passionfruit although the fruit inside is totally different. One cuts carefully around the equator to reveal it: white, segmented like an orange, but with a single large seed in each segment. The flavour is very pleasant in a citrus-crossed-with-lychee kind of way. Other writers have called it the “Queen of Tropical Fruits” … perhaps a bit excessive? Not according to this enthusiast’s site.
For all the basic information – origins, cultivation, botanical name, uses – wikipedia is, as usual, fine but the mangosteen page on the Australian Tropical Fruits Portal is just about the ideal introduction for Australian readers.
Update, October 2015: The Australian Tropical Fruits Portal seems to have vanished. The Archives of the Rare Fruit Council of Australia may be a useful alternative.