When mangosteens are in season, from May to September, I can’t wait to get my hands on some. I know that these exotic treats, sometimes called purple mangosteen, will soon be gone. These beautiful little fruits are about the size of a baseball. Dark purple in color, they have a tough outer shell. The top is crowned with small green leaves and the bottom is stamped with a flowerlike shape. They almost look manufactured, but this is how God makes them.
You have to carefully cut a line around the tough outer pericarp—the fruit wall—with a sharp knife. The pericarp is about a quarter of an inch thick. Once you’ve made a line along its equator, you can pull the two halves of the mangosteen apart to reveal a soft, snowy white interior that is clearly segmented. The largest segment contains a seed, and sometimes the smaller segments contain one also. The juicy flesh is like a pear or a peach with more floral tones. I like to eat the fresh fruit on its own, but I also use the pulp to concoct fun recipes.
The flesh of the mangosteen has anti-inflammatory properties and is full of antioxidants, including the FoodTrient vitamin C. Mangosteen rinds contain xanthones, which kill cancer cells in the lab. More tests are being done with animals and humans to see if the xanthones can work as well when ingested.
My fruit purveyor ships fresh mangosteens from Southeast Asia, but you can purchase them online at www.melissas.com. Some companies manufacture mangosteen drinks and add the ground pericarp to mangosteen juice. If the juice is more pink than white, you know the pericarp was added. Mangosteen supplements are widely available. These mostly contain the pink pericarp, dried and ground.
Another exotic fruit that I love to eat is rambutan (also available at www.melissas.com). These Malaysian fruits, which mean “hair” (rambut), look like small, red, hairy monsters. The somewhat rubbery brownish-red outer shell is peeled away to reveal a white, moist oval that is very similar to a lychee. It’s sweet, juicy, and subtle in flavor, not unlike the mangosteen. Rambutans are botanically related to lychees. They contain the vitamin C, iron, and phosphorous. Vitamin C helps the body resist infection, helps prevent cataracts, and aids in tissue regeneration to keep your skin young and fresh looking. Vitamin C also reduces the risk of some cancers and stroke. Sufficient iron intake ensures that your red blood cells are distributing enough oxygen to your tissues. Phosphorous helps muscles contract, builds protein, and keeps nerves functioning properly.
I created a chutney recipe for mangosteen pulp that can work equally well with rambutan pulp. This chutney can be served with cheese and crackers, spread on burgers, or served alongside spicy Indian dishes. The onions supply quercitin, an immune-booster. The ginger can alleviate inflammatory conditions. If exotic fruits are hard to find in your area, try substituting pears.
½ cup diced onion
2 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger
1 tsp. minced fresh garlic
1 Tbsp. sunflower oil
¼ cup raw or natural brown sugar
¼ cup apple-cider vinegar
1½ cups mangosteen pulp (from about 6–8 mangosteens)
1 tsp. Chinese five-spice powder
¼ tsp. white pepper
1 bay leaf
1. Cook onion, garlic, and ginger in sunflower oil over medium heat for about 3 minutes, or until onions are translucent.
2. Add sugar and continue cooking another minute or so until the mixture is sticky.
3. Deglaze the pan by adding the vinegar and scraping down the sides of the pan to remove any sticky bits.
4. Add mangosteen pulp and the rest of the ingredients. Turn down the heat to low and simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring often, until the chutney is thick and bubbly.