The mangosteen is a round, purple fruit slightly smaller than a tennis ball, but it has absolutely nothing to do with a mango—a mangosteen is not known to taste anything like mangoes, nor does it look like one. The fruit originated in Malaysia and grows on trees in warm climates, but it is difficult to grow due to its temperamental nature. It has a sweet taste while being slightly sour at the same time.
Where they are Grown
The mangosteen grows on small evergreen trees in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and southern India. Some farmers are trying their luck in Hawaii and the Caribbean, but the fruit is generally difficult to grow. It is said that Queen Victoria offered a sizable prize to anyone who could bring an edible mangosteen back to England, but no one was able.
Most mangosteens are currently not available or grown in the United States because the rind can carry pests that would threaten other crops; the only mangosteens legally allowed to be imported to the United States mainland are those from Hawaii or Puerto Rico. The fruit can be legally imported to Canada, and can also be found in Europe and parts of the Mediterranean. Canned mangosteen is also an option, but for most people, the flavor does not even seem to resemble that of the fresh fruit.
How it's Eaten
To eat it, one can crush the brittle, yet moist, rind with the palm of the hand to reveal the pure-white fruit inside. The bitter rind is inedible, and the fruit comes in the form of variously sized wedged segments, similar to garlic, but the largest mangosteen wedge may hold a solitary, bitter seed that is not usually eaten. The number of segments usually varies from four to eight, which is matched by the number of points on the protrusion from the underside of the fruit; therefore, it is easy to know how many pieces of fruit are inside before opening it. Usually, the fruit can be kept at room temperature for up to one week, but it may last a few days longer if kept cold such as in the refrigerator.
What it Tastes Like
Many people say that a mangosteen does not really taste like anything else they may have eaten, so it's best not to take comparisons too literally. The fruit is known to be sweet, but tempered with a very slight sourness. The mangosteen has flavors that range from strawberry, peach, to vanilla ice cream.