While mangosteens are not readily available in the United States, their popularity is growing – largely due to the incredible and unique flavor. It was a hit even with Queen Victoria, who offered a reward to anyone who could successfully cultivate it in England. Unfortunately, all efforts failed. Even with current agricultural technology, farmers are discouraged from growing it in the United States because the rinds could harbor pests that could endanger other crops.
Mangosteens thrive in Asian climates. These small evergreen trees are prolific in Malaysia, Southern India, Thailand and Indonesia. There are, however, some experiments to cultivate it in the Carribean, though the fruit tends to be quite sensitive to climate, soil and temperature, and does not grow very well outside of Asia.
The fruit is round with a deep purple color. It is quite small (about as large as a tennis ball). The rind is removed and discarded, being bitter and actually quite inedible, and the flesh inside is white. It has segments, like an orange, but the seeds are larger. The number of segments is equal to the number of protrusions on the lower part of the fruit.
Despite the similarity in names, mangosteens are not related to mangoes, and bear no similarity in color, flavor, or texture. Mangosteens are sweet with a hint of sourness, and has been compared to peaches and vanilla ice cream. However, these comparisons are quite weak—the flavor is quite distinct. Even canned mangosteens have a different taste than fresh mangosteens.