The mangosteen (Garcinia mangostana), a tropical evergreen tree, is native to Southeast Asia. The fruit has purple skin and very flavorsome flesh. The flesh is white, sweet, and juicy. After peeling the rind of the fruit off, it can be consumed raw or used for cooking. In some countries, the mangosteen is used to produce juice, wine, and liqueur.
This exotic fruit is an antioxidant powerhouse, with 40 times more vitamin C than an orange and 10 times more iron than chicken liver. It also contains vitamins A, E, and B complex plus the important minerals calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium selenium sulfur, and zinc.
The mangosteen is native to the Indonesian Archipelago, but it is cultivated in Southeast Asia, southern China, Brazil, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Myanmar (Burma), Sri Lanka, South Africa, and Central America. It can be grown as an ornamental container plant. Not all varieties are self-fertile. Growth is best on well-drained soils, related to Garcinia hombroniana.
It can become invasive in very humid climates or where there are no adjacent trees to prevent its spread by suckers. Its small size makes manual removal the favored method of control where feasible. It is drought tolerant once established but benefits from regular deep watering if it is to grow more than 1.5 m tall. It is a relative of the mangosteen, Garcinia Livingstone.
The fruit is a popular delicacy throughout the world and one of the most commercially important tropical fruits. The flesh has an exquisite flavor similar to that of grapefruit with undertones of peach or pineapple, and a distinctive aroma. The rind is astringent and inedible.
Mangosteens have been used for a variety of medicinal purposes in Indian folk medicine. Some Mbyá Indians in Paraguay use an infusion made from the bark to treat gastroenteritis, while others use it as a diuretic. Similarly, in China, the bark is used to treat diarrhea while fruit rinds are used as an antidiarrhoeal agent. An herbal tea made from mangosteen leaves has been used in Southeast Asia by women after childbirth to help restore the uterus to its normal size.
The mangosteen was brought to Europe by travelers and explorers between 1583 and 1767. In 1868, the mangosteen was first cultivated in Guatemala from where plants were taken to various tropical areas around the world, including Hawaii in 1889. The mangosteen is a popular ornamental tree, grown for its dark glossy foliage and fragrant white flowers which appear intermittently throughout the year.