The Mangosteen–The Most Sought-After Fruit in the World? Dec01

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The Mangosteen–The Most Sought-After Fruit in the World?

It has nothing to do with a mango. It’s supposed to be one of the best–arguably the best–fruit in the world. If you’re lucky enough to get your hands on one, it could cost you over $10 for a single fruit.

What is a mangosteen? It’s the small, round fruit of a tropical evergreen tree that is native to Southeast Asia. Its hard, purple exterior must be sliced open to reveal the seductively fragrant, creamy-white half moons of sweet, tangy fruit.

Why are these things so expensive? Except for some success in Hawaii and southern Florida, every effort to  cultivate mangosteens commercially in the US has failed. Until recently, importing mangosteens from Asia to the US was banned in the name of agricultural pest prevention. So most Americans could try a mangosteen only if they were in southeast Asia. Besides being difficult to propagate, the tree takes anywhere from 9 to 20 years to bear fruit! This fact, combined with importation bans and a high rate of perishability, made the mangosteen one of the rarest and most expensive fruits on the market. 

In addition, because the mangosteen is a “super fruit,” rich in antioxidants, it has lots of potential in the supplement world. As such, the demand for the domain name mangosteen.com is off the charts, but the owners of www.mangosteen.com are determined to maintain the site as one devoted to the fruit’s unique history and infamous agricultural background. After many years fraught with trials and tribulations, their persistent commitment to cultivating the fruit finally paid off, as they have established a viable orchard in Puerto Rico.

In the last few years, mangosteens have begun to pop up in select Asian grocery stores, in specialty produce markets, and on the menus of some fine dining establishments. The  import ban was lifted, with the stipulation that all fruit must be irradiated prior to shipment in order to kill any bug larvae. At last a few specialty produce suppliers such as Melissa’s and Frieda’s finally have access to these rare delicacies.

A much-quoted but unverified legend surrounding the mangosteen is that Queen Victoria offered 100 pounds sterling (some even say knighthood) to the first person to deliver one to her in England. When you factor in inflation, that’s literally thousands of American dollars for a single fruit. (So, all things considered, despite their seemingly high price, they are actually quite a deal!) This legend, along with the fruit’s rarity, price, and superlative character, has garnered it the nickname “The Queen of Fruits.”

So be a Queen for a day. Savor the sweetness of globalization and overnight shipping. Try a mangosteen and let me know what you think.

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