Mangosteen : The Queen Of Tropical Fruits
If durian is the “king of fruits,” then mangosteen is the queen. Mangosteen is the queen. Mangosteen is believed to have “cooling” effects that counteract the “intense heat” emitted by durian. The fact that the fruiting season of these two tropical fruits coincide makes these titles particularly apt.
So much has been written about mangosteen. There is a legend about Queen Victoria offering a reward to anyone who could deliver to her the fabled fruit. In his publication, Hortus Veitchii, James Herbert Veitch reported that he visited Java (Indonesia) in 1892 “to eat the mangosteen. It is necessary to eat the fruit grown within three or four degrees of latitude of the equator to realize at all the attractive and curious properties of this fruit.”
In Southeast Asia, where it is endemic, mangosteen is highly esteemed. “In other tropical areas, this fruit is known only in botanical gardens and small experimental orchards,” noted Underexploited Tropical Plants with Promising Economic Value, published by the US National Academy of Sciences (NAS). “Curiously, it is unavailable in what could be its major markets: Central America, South America, Australia, and Africa, where it would be readily accepted if it could be economically produced.”
Mangosteen is usually eaten fresh as dessert. Hold the fruit with the stem-end downward, take a sharp knife and cut around the middle completely through the rind, and lift off the top half, which leaves the fleshy segments exposed in the colorful “cup” – the bottom half of the rind. Lift out the segments by fork.
A Westerner, who once traveled to Asia, wrote after eating the fruit: “The pulp melts away in your mouth after the manner of a ripe peach or strawberry; it has a taste which nobody can describe any more than he can tell how a canary sings or a violet smells…”
Since 2004, mangosteen has been included among an emerging category of novel functional foods sometimes called “superfruits” presumed to have a combination of: (1) appealing characteristics, such as taste, fragrance and visual qualities; (2) rich in nutrients; (3) antioxidant strength; and 4) potential impact for lowering risk against human diseases.
Mangosteen is known for its medicinal properties. The sliced and dried rind is powdered and administered to overcome dysentery. Made into an ointment, it is applied on eczema and other skin disorders. The rind decoction is taken to relieve diarrhea and cystitis. A portion of the rind is steeped in water overnight and the infusion given as a remedy for chronic diarrhea in adults and children.
In the Philippines, people employ a decoction of the leaves and bark as a febrifuge and to treat thrush, diarrhea, dysentery, and urinary disorders. In Malaysia, an infusion of the leaves, combined with unripe banana and a little benzoin is applied to the wound of circumcision. A root decoction is taken to regulate menstruation.
The latest in scientific research shows mangosteen contains a class of natural accurring polyphenolic compounds known as xanthones. Xanthones, which have properties which help to heal cells aimaged by free radicals, slow aging, and ward off degenerative diseases and physical and mental deterioration, are found in a limited number of rain forest plants, but nowhere are they found in greater abundance than in the rind of mangosteen fruit.
There are several other uses of mangosteen. In Ghana, mangosteen twigs are used as chew sticks. The fruit rind conmins 7 percent to 14 percent tannin and rosin, and is used for tanning leather in China. It also yields a black dye.
In Thailand, all non-bearing trees are felled, so the wood is available but usually only in small dimensions. It is dark-brown, heavy, almost sinks in water, and is moderately durable. It has been to make handles for spears, also rice pounders, and is employed in construction and cabinetwork.
According to the NAS publication, mangosteen has great potential for export to North America, Europe, and the Middle East. But due to ongoing restrictions on imports, mangosteen is not readily available in certain countries. Although available in Australia, for example, they are still rare in the produce sections of grocery stores in North America and Europe.
Unlike other tropical fruits like durian, marang, jackfruit and santol, “mangosteen is perhaps the one most readily accepted by Western palates,” the NAS publication noted.
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, reported: “From 2006 to present, private small volume orders from fruits grown on Puerto Rico are being filled for American gourmet restaurants who serve the aril pieces as a delicacy dessert. Beginning in 2007 for the first time, fresh mangosteens are also being sold for as high as $45 per pound from specialty produce stores in New York City.”
Although the fruit has long been regarded as having great economic potential, mangosteen has not received much attention from farmers. One reason is that it takes as long as 15 years to produce a profitable crop. In recent years, if planted using cuttings, it takes only 6 to 7 years to start bearing fruits.
According to the Agribusiness and Marketing Assistance Service of the Department of Agriculture, the area planted to mangosteen in the Philippines totaled 1,200 hectares in 1998, the year when the country exported 4,114 kilograms of mangosteen to Hong Kong.
During 1994 to 1998, area planted grew by 2 percent. Mangosteen is grown in the Sulu archipelago and some provinces in Mindanao. Negros Oriental registered 20 hectares planted to mangosteen.
A warm, humid environment is ideal for growing mangosteen. Rainfall should be well-distributed throughout the year, unless sufficient irrigation is available.
The soil should be rich in organic matter, porous, deep, moist, and well-drained. Ideal type of soil is heavy clay with sand and silt. It can thrive at elevations of up to 500 meters above sea level.
Although it can be grown using seeds, experts recommend using vegetative parts, particularly cuttings raised in nursery. When they are ready for transplanting, plant them at a distance of 7 meters in rows and 9 meters between rows. The seedlings are placed in holes 15 centimeters deep.
During the growing stage, it is suggested that weeding be done at a distance of 1 meter around the plants. Nitrate or other nitrogenous fertilizers are applied for longer periods of fruiting. Composts may also be broadcast to enrich the soil with humus.
To make mangosteen growing more profitable, intercrops must be planted, too. Common intercrops are peanut and other legumes, abaca, banana, marang, and lanzones trees. Dapdap and durian trees also serve as partial shades.
Julia F. Morton, in her book, Fruits of Warm Climates, noted: “Cropping is irregular and the yield varies from tree to tree and from season to season. The first crop may be 200-300 fruits. Average yield of a full-grown tree is about 500 fruits. The yield steadily increases up to the 30th year of bearing when crops of 1,000 to 2,000 fruits may be obtained.”
Productivity gradually declines after 45 years, though the tree will still be fruiting at 100 years of age.
By Henrylito D. Tacio