How often do you get try new fruit?
Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of fruits out there that I haven’t tried. The fabled durian and I are yet to have an encounter, and there’s always the ackee or breadfruit or a black sapote. Yet the very reason that I haven’t tried them is the one that makes new fruit exciting – they’re very hard to come by. Many fruits stop ripening once they’re plucked, and rot soon after they’re ripe, making them hard to transport over long distances. Throw in the danger of bringing exotic diseases and pests into the country, and it becomes difficult to get your hand on fruit that can’t be grown in your (relatively) immediate vicinity. (This is also why the fruits we do manage to haul over long distances – citrus, for example – are not nearly as good when you buy them where they don’t grow.) So, while I do believe in reducing your carbon footprint and eating locally where possible, I have to admit, I get pretty excited at the opportunity to experience new fruits. Enter Kam Man Food!
Directly after the Filipino food adventure in Quincy, my band of intrepid friends and I headed over to this impressive Korean grocery store and market. Both Elise and Valerie have shared some adventures in the home goods department – check them out. True to the spirit of this blog, however, my heart belonged to the grocery store, and in particular, to the large bag of hard purple fruit that we found there. Mangosteens!
Mangosteens come from Southeast Asia and require ultra-tropical conditions in which to grow. This makes them a lousy crop for most of the United States. Throw in concerns around the Asian fruit fly and let’s just say that they’re not the easiest fruit to come by in these parts. I’ve had them freeze-dried from Trader Joe’s and enjoyed them, but here was my chance to try the real thing! So I bought them for a pretty penny and brought them home.
The dark purple outer skin isn’t edible – like the pomegranate, the edible part of the mangosteen is an aril – a fleshy coating to the seeds inside the fruit. Unlike a pomegranate the mangosteen arils are quite large and less numerous – they actually correspond to the petals on the little flower shape on the bottom of the fruit! There are always 4-8 of them.
Should you ever have one of these in your possession, I’ll let you know they aren’t the easiest fruit I’ve ever tried to open up. That outer skin can be up to an inch thick and is rather tough, but I got through eventually and managed not to slice right through my prize! The fruit inside is white and soft, and looks like a bit like a goth orange.
I plucked the segments out with a fork and dug in. The texture was very soft and pulpy, but not unpleasantly so. And the taste!
A mangosteen tastes like a peach and a banana had a baby, with a faint hint of citrus acidity on the finish. The fruit doesn’t have much of a fragrance, so the amount of flavor is a wonderful surprise. I found myself wishing they were much bigger! It’s said that the mangosteen is the Queen of Fruits, and it’s easy to see why. This treat is a bit too expensive to be enjoyed regularly (and sadly, all of the nutrition is in the inedible exocarp – some companies grind it into the juice to create an antioxidant-rich drink) but it was a wonderful coda to my Quincy adventure. Next up, for better or worse, I hope to experience the fruit king!