Thursday, February 7, 2008

Foodie Thursday

It's Chinese New Year! Health and wealth and happiness to you! To mark the day I was fortunate to obtain a reprehensible delicacy, the legendary mangosteen, queen of tropical fruits. I'd read about them, but never seen one before. They look a bit like small purple pomegranates or tough-skinned figs and are about the size of a head of garlic. The marking on the blossom end varies from fruit to fruit and hints at the contents.

Whole mangosteens

Like many tropical fruits, the mangosteen has a thick nasty rind. One cuts part way through along the equator (a sawing motion and serrated knife work well), gently applies a bit of torque, and the fruit opens neatly.

Cut mangosteen

Surprise! Given the intensely colored skin, the pale segments are a bit of a shock. DH calls them insect pupae. (After everyone screams and runs away, there's more for him.) There is exact correspondence between the blossom end scar and the number of segments inside. The biggest segments contain a large, bitter seed, so fruits with many small segments offer the best eating.

Mangosteen segments

The segments are very soft, juicy, and slippery. A fork is helpful to gently prise segments out of the rind. Just the least pressure between tongue and palate makes them melt in the mouth, not with a pop or a squish, it's there, then not there. The flavor has been variously described as perfectly balanced between sweet and acid, strawberry-peach, etc. I think the analogies are helpful, yet misleading – mangosteen tastes like mangosteen.

Overall, the melt-in-the-mouth quality is unique in my experience, but taste-wise there are a whole bunch of fruits I'd place ahead of mangosteens. Stories that they are orgasmically delicious would seem to be greatly exaggerated. Perhaps I'd think differently if I had access to orchard-fresh ones.

The mangosteen plant is a botanical wonder, very fussy about habitat, with asexually produced viable seeds (plants are nonvegetative clones). I've read that the rind yields a magical dye that strikes without mordant and is very fast, sometimes said to be purple-black, sometimes said to be brilliant saffron (???). I'm saving the rinds for a bit of cauldron work. More in a bit [vbg].


Carole Knits said...

I have never heard of this fruit before. Thanks for the info!

--Deb said...

I've never heard of them either....

bookwoman said...

I recently saw these in Trader Joe's, but wondered what in the heck they were. Thanks for the lesson. If they've still got them, I'll be trying some this weekend.

Suburbaknitsta said...

I've been wanting to try those I read an article about the mangosteen in well in something I don't remember what. I think I will go buy one tomm.

Kristen said...

I need to get more adventurous and try more exotic fruits. Though now with the mangosteen (new to me too) I might not be able to get past the thought of insect pupae!

Kim said...

Wow, mangosteen! Never tried one but now I am intrigued. When I saw the photo of the cut-open fruit, my first thought was "oh, chilled monkey brain."

Anonymous said...

Ooh I have been wanting to try this! I wish I knew where I could find it.

your pal