Dubbed the "queen of fruits", the mangosteen is native to Malaysia and Indonesia, although it is now found throughout South-East Asia, where it is a favorite almost everywhere. The mangosteen is a small spherical fruit about the size of a tangerine, but with a skin that is very dark purple, and quite thick, reaching 10 millimeters in thickness. Inside is a soft white sectioned middle. The edible sections may or may not contain a small seed. The taste is quite sweet, but with a hint of sourness.
A pile of mangosteens in the market
Mangosteens are said to have been a favorite of Queen Victoria. She may have been on to something. According to some recent accounts, the mangosteen is one of the richest sources of chemical compounds called Xanthones. These compounds are showing promise in some trials as having many beneficial effects, with some proponents suggesting that the mangosteen could be the next fountain of youth.
Although quite popular throughout Asia, mangosteens are hard to find elsewhere since the trees are slow growing and thus not as economically viable as mango or pineapple. When you do find them, you should know that the skin is quite thick and can also stain quite badly. The best way to peel and serve a mangosteen is to use a knife to cut through the skin around the middle, then lift the top off. The segments can then be easily removed with a fork.