The Queen Of Fruit

25 Jul

“When ripe the [mangosteen] fruit is as delicate and agreeably sweet as the finest lansehs and may even be mistaken for ripe grapes. It is at the same time so juicy, that many people can never eat enough of it, so delicious is its fragrance and agreeable its sweetness; and it is believed that the sick, when appetite or the power of eating has wholly gone, are nevertheless delighted with this fruit; or at least if they will not take to Mangosteens their case is indeed hopeless.”

–Georgius Everhardus Rumphius, Dutch Governor of Amboyna (1628-1702)

Virtually unseen and untasted by Westerners, the mangosteen enjoys a prominent role in a possibly apocryphal story involving Queen Victoria and a substantial reward to anyone who was able to bring back an intact mangosteen to London. Unfortunately her gustatory wishes went unfulfilled.

I was determined not to end up like Queen Victoria.

Many people close to me will know that a large part of my journey to Sri Lanka was the search for the almighty mangosteen, known as “The Queen of Fruit.” As soon as I arrived last September, I immediately asked around for the mangosteen.

“Sorry, it won’t be around until next April,” they all said. But at least once every single month, I’d inquire about the mangosteen. Maybe there was an early harvest? I kept fearing some sort of meteorological calamity which would destroy the entire 2007 mangosteen harvest and leave my dreams unrealized.

Then suddenly one night at the end of May during a bongo drum party in Polhena, Vivian said, “Oh, I just bought a couple mangosteens at the market today. They’re good!”

I already had a few too many beers by then, and as I stumbled to Sophie’s room to pass out, I vaguely remember eating one or two white wedges of mangosteen flesh and tasting its famed flavour. It is often described as a creamy combination of vanilla, strawberry, and peach.

However, the children at Rohana knew I had been waiting for mangosteens, and one student, Champika, kept telling me that she had several mangosteen trees at her home and would bring me some the first chance she had.

Well, the first chance she had–about a week after my first taste–she gave me a plastic bag with black and white stripes, containing six mangosteens. This is what happened:

I ate at least two dozen mangosteens between the end of May and when I left at the end of June. I was so sure it did not exist outside of Sri Lanka that I bought a bag of six mangosteens to take with me on the flight so friends in Thailand–Bobby and Jenny–could taste them.

Now I know that mangosteen trees thrive in many tropical areas around the Indian Ocean–Sri Lanka, Thailand, the Philippines. Attempts to cultivate them in Hawaii, California, and Florida, however, failed spectacularly, and due to fears of the Asian fruit fly, any mangosteen imports from Asia were banned by the FDA.

Until yesterday. As of 23 July, irradiated mangosteens will be allowed from Thailand, so you may get to eat your first mangosteen next summer. Irradiated, but free of fruit flies.

16 Responses to “The Queen Of Fruit”

  1. LaRonda 25. Jul, 2007 at 1:06 pm #

    This was enjoyable and informative. I had no idea that a mangosteen existed. I wish I could taste one myself. I loved seeing the deaf community there in Sri Lanka (??) explaining and sharing this fruit with you. Rich learning experience. They all looked so happy. :)

    Thank you for sharing this with us.

    ~ LaRonda

  2. Bobby 25. Jul, 2007 at 5:56 pm #

    Mangosteens! Yes! Thanks so much for bringing some to Thailand, they were delicious. We were too distracted by the other cuisine there (like fried skeletal fish covered with flies) to get more! =)

  3. Derek Rodger 26. Jul, 2007 at 2:00 am #

    Wow. I did not now Mangosteens exist. They look lovely, funny shape and I bet you they are delicious. Can I buy them in the UK? I like your blog, entertaining to read and quite funny. You have a wonderful way of expressing yourself. I used to work with Anne East and actually helped her with making the DVD. I am sorry it did not work to plan – technical hiccups…

  4. jess 26. Jul, 2007 at 4:06 am #

    lovin’ this post. made me all kinds of happy.

  5. sasha ponappa 26. Jul, 2007 at 4:22 am #


    this is one of the besssst fruits ever!! i very much remember a conversation we shared on the kayaking trip right before you left for sri lanka- and we spoke about mangosteens. they’re something so unique about it. i miss it!!

    thanks for this cheerful and sweet post!!

    we need to meet up soon!

    – sasha

  6. Frank 26. Jul, 2007 at 4:48 am #

    We enjoy Mangosteen Rx, in pill form. Check it out here
    Our best to you Adam! Frank and Jackie in Rochester, NY.

  7. grandma 26. Jul, 2007 at 7:20 am #

    Yay Mangosteens….
    Grandpa andI mhad the pleasure of tasting that fruit on a marvelous cruise on the Sea Goddess in 1989, out 40th anniversary celebration.The chef and waitstaff were
    ever so proud of the exotic offerings,including the “stinky” fruit and mangosteens ever present at roadside stands. Just lie Chino’s!

    Hope your wedding duties werewell received and meaningful.

  8. Shilpa 26. Jul, 2007 at 5:57 pm #

    i’m shocked. if you could see me right now… my jaw is on the ground floor (i live on the 8th floor, mind ya). but… but… ((gasps))… you are actually shaking your head the Indian way?

    you are forever Sri Lanka-inzed!

  9. Mr. Sandman 26. Jul, 2007 at 8:11 pm #

    That was a cool video clip! Nice shirt, by the way. Hopefully I’ll be able to try a mangosteen one of these days. It was also neat to see deaf Sri Lankans. Cultural exposure is good for all of us. :)

  10. Nerissa 27. Jul, 2007 at 12:06 am #

    Just heard that a new drink called Xangosteen is newly available and made in the US with mangosteens….

  11. Jac 27. Jul, 2007 at 3:29 pm #

    It was enjoy to view your video clip, it is interesting about mangosteen. Also their Thiland sign language are different, I tried to catch what they say, I got lost! Thanks for sharing with us!

  12. pete & jill 29. Jul, 2007 at 9:00 am #

    hey adam 1000 apoligies if we havent stayed in touch but you are always in our thoughts & minds. {please excuse the spelling i,m more hands on as u know}
    not a day goes pass without a flashback to our time in MATARA. WHEN ANYONE ASKS IF WE WOULD GO BACK AGAIN I SAY TOMORROW NO PROBLEM..#
    But as u know we have a living to make and pay the bills etc etc…….
    hey but we shall meet again for sure and you are more than welcome in sunny scotland,:usally we get a sunny day in novenber, try and book yourself in !!!!!!!!!!!!

  13. Rhea 03. Aug, 2007 at 4:31 pm #

    Adam, after I read this post I started seeing mangosteens everywhere! Apparently, it’s like the iPhone of fruits. Mangosteens do so many good things for you that a small bottle of mangosteen juice goes for 18 bucks at Whole Foods. Thanks for opening my eyes… thus begins my own quest for the mangosteen!

  14. piere 14. Sep, 2007 at 2:33 pm #

    can you buy mangosteen in canada i would love to try this fruit i was told by a sales men here he eats this fruit every day but i hav never seen it here before he was seling a jusie called xango and told be he eats this fruit every day . and you are telling me it is just been realeased my fda to be imported how is lying to me now

  15. Fredy Hinostroza 23. Apr, 2008 at 1:44 pm #

    Vemma is a fairly new product on the market that offers high ORAC value per drink and a great taste.
    Vemma contains: Vitamins, Essentials, Minerals, Mangosteen, Aloe Vera and Green Tea. It is considered to be one of the most powerful liquid antioxidants in the world. When taken daily it can help prevent and alleviate a great number of illnesses.
    When it comes to supplements it is important to consider that your body needs to absorb as much as it can from these products. Studies have shown that Aloe Vera (which comes with Vemma) helps in the abosortion of these vitamins.

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