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Tuesday, July 5, 2011
MANGOSTEEN FRUIT - INFORMATION: HEALTH BENEFITS AND USES OF MANGOSTEEN FRUIT
MANGOSTEEN, GARCINIA MANGOSTANA
Despite the similarities in their names, mangosteens and mangoes are not related. The mangosteen belongs to the Clusiaceae family of plants, although formerly it was in the Guttiferae one; this means that this fruit is related to st john's wort. It gets its name from a Malay word, manggusta, the name for this fruit. The slow-growing fruit tree with a pyramid shaped crown, which grows to between 20 and 82 feet, was named in honour of the French explorer of the 18th century, Laurent Garcin.
I think on the whole I prefer rambutan, and don’t see what the hype surrounding mangosteens is all about. They are not related, but taste a little like each other. Mangosteen has segments surrounding the long flat seeds, and these look like fleshy garlic cloves. They are easy to peel although people seem to need a knife on other web sites; maybe they haven’t had really fresh fruit. You have to be careful though as the purple juice stains your fingers. However, you can eat them as you wander around if you are thirsty. They are sold alongside rambutans in Thai markets and on stalls that line the road when they are in season, in May through June. To me they taste like a cross between a strawberry and a lychee, with a hint of vanilla.
The flowers of the rambutan tree are hermaphrodites, in other words they have both male and female parts, so it’s easy for them to pollinate. This is partly why they have been moved to the Clusiaceae family. They like humidity and rainfall and although they have been introduced to various countries since their “discovery” by Europeans, they have been difficult to grow on a large scale, and thrive best in hothouses.
It is believed that they have their origins in the Sunda Islands and the Maluccas, although it can be found wild in the forests of Kemaman, Malaya. Perhaps it was first domesticated in Thailand, but the experts are not sure. They were first planted in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) in 1800 and then in India in 1881, and some trees still grow there. They were also introduced to Queensland, Australia, where largely unsuccessful attempts have been made to cultivate them since 1884. There are some plantations in the West Indies, and in Guatemala, Honduras and Colombia. The fruits have to be harvested by hand when they are fully ripe, and any that fall are not taken to market.
In Thailand the non-fruiting trees are felled and used for timber in the construction industry and furniture making. In the past they were used to make spear handles and pounders for rice.
The fruit contains the minerals potassium, phosphorous, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese and zinc, along with some others. It also has vitamins A, C and E as well as some of the B-complex ones. The rind of the fruit contains tannins and xanthones, and is used dried in traditional medicine systems in South-East Asia for dysentery and diarrhoea. A decoction of the dried fruits is used for skin problems such as eczema and psoriasis and is drunk as a remedy for cystitis and gonorrhoea.
In the Philippines, a decoction of the leaves and bark is used to reduce fevers, for urinary tract problems, dysentery and diarrhoea, and candida (thrush). In Malaysia a decoction of the roots of the tree is used to regulate menstruation, and an infusion of the leaves mixed with a little benzoin and an unripe banana is used to stop infection after circumcision of male babies.
A bark extract from the tree has been found to contain derivatives of mangostin; mangostin-e, 6-di-O-glycoside which depresses the functions of the central nervous system, and can cause a rise in blood pressure in lab-tested animals. There is some evidence to suggest that the mangosteen tree may kill cancer cells, and it has antioxidant properties, but a lot of research is still needed as none of the studies so far carried out have been on people.
In the 19th century as well as in the 21st there was a lot of hype surrounding this fruit which is regarded as the “Queen of Fruit” in South-East Asia, with Durian being the King. Indian and Pakistanis would dispute this saying that mango is the king, while shareefa is the fruit of kings.
The mangosteen was first grown in Britain in the mid 19th century on the estate of the Dukes of Northumberland by their gardener, John Ivison, and won the Royal Horticultural Society’s Gold Banksian Medal which was the first time it had been awarded to a single fruit; this was in 1855. Queen Victoria, the reigning monarch at that time, seems to have eaten her first mangosteen in 1891 which she received from Trinidad. Her personal secretary wrote in thanks to Sir Frederick Broome, who had been instrumental in supplying the fruit, that the Queen thought her gift “quite excellent.” However, this may be a case of damning with faint praise, as a thing is either excellent or not.