December 19, 2009

Mangosteen, the Queen of Fruits

mangosteen, fruits and health, dailyfruits.blogspot.comMy first experience with a mangosteen occurred while visiting Japan and it was nothing to write home about; in fact it was a disappointment. Already on guard due to the odd name - why call them "mangosteens" when they're nothing like mangos? the thing looked like a bleached tangerine stuffed into a split purple baseball. The fruit tasted delicious; somewhat reminiscent of peaches and lychees, but there was far too little of it.

Unlike other tropical fruits, ultra-perishable mangosteens have been difficult to export successfully while proving resistant to cultivation closer to the western world. In their native Thailand, however, the noble mangosteen has long been prized for its medicinal properties as well as its delicious taste.

"Mangosteen, the Queen of Fruits"... no, that's not a taunt directed at the effeminate kid who used to loiter outside the deli. Nor is it a new superhero who hails from, er, the Bay Area.

According to Koichi Okabe, president of a Japanese dessert company president who deals with a variety of different Thai foods, "Mangosteens are sometimes called the Queen of Fruits." I'm sure they don't mind, unlike poor Shecky, the neighborhood faigela. Okabe goes on to say that "Mangosteen juice, made by crushing the fruit, skin and seeds, not only tastes great, it has wonderful health benefits."

The various mangosteen drinks now sweeping Japan are a rich purple in color, owing to the blending of mangosteen rind extracts with the pale fruit. It's the inedible inside rind, or exocarp, that carries "the good stuff" - a heady blend of over 100 phytonutrients, phenolic compounds and anti-oxidants called xanthones that have shown promise in warding off cancer in mice.

In Japan, mangosteen fruits and juices have struck a chord with a public who not only love new trends, but have been bombarded by a scary government campaign against the dreaded metabolic syndrome: illnesses caused by obesity and lack of physical fitness.

While non-Japanese companies like XanGo have been marketing mangosteen puree blends for several years now, cost factors have effectively made it a luxury product for most people. That may not be a problem in Japan, which benefits from being close to the Southeast Asian source. (via Mainichi News)