The Mangosteen is best known for its sweet and acidic taste
The queen of fruits, Mangosteen is here. The fruit evokes images of Vaikom Mohammed Basheer sitting in his planter’s chair under the shade of a Mangosteen tree, with a gramophone nearby.
This purple-coloured fruit with its four-lobbed calyx cap, which costs around Rs.180 per kilogram, now reigns in the fruit stalls in the city. The fruits are sold in front of Mascot Hotel, Palayam, the outskirts of the city and in many chain shops.
A native of Sunda Islands and Moluccas, the tree was introduced to India in 1881. Now, Mangosteen plantations are seen in Nilgiri Hills, Southern Chennai , Kanyakumari and on the river embankments of Kerala.
This tree belongs to the family Guttiferae and (family of Kudam Puli) is scientifically named Garcinia mangostana (after the French priest and explorer Laurentiers Garcin who studied the Mangosteen).
“The tree grows well and bears fruits here, provided sufficient water is available,” confirms Thomas Kurian Ooppoottil, an industrialist in the city, who owns fruit- bearing Mangosteen estates in Vithura and Kattakada. “The tree yields fruits in six to 10 years and a full-grown tree of 20 to 25 years yields 1,500 to 2,000 fruits depending on the size of the tree,” he adds.
The river embankments of Pamba, Manimala and Achankovil are the Mangosteen growing regions of Kerala and the trading hub is Konni, from where the fruits are mainly sent to Chennai for export.
The trees are generally propagated from seeds in poly bags and re-planted after two years. The seeds are recalcitrant in nature, that is they lose viability immediately after removal from the fruit and hence should be sown within three to five days.
This tropical evergreen tree requires high atmospheric humidity and normal rainfall and cannot tolerate climatic extremes like drought and frost.
Organic manure and irrigation are essential for this tree. The fruit, which does not require fertilisation, are borne on female trees. The pale green fruit turns dark green, then dark purple and softens on ripening. The fruit, a blend of acids and sugar, is delicious.
The fruit is often consumed fresh as a dessert. In some places, the fruit is canned or made into jams. The rind is rich in pectin and is used for preparing jelly.
The rind of the Mangosteen is rich in Xanthones, a phyto nutrient having strong anti-oxidant properties with potential health benefits. Mangosteen twigs are used as chew sticks in Ghana. The fruit extracts are used for tanning leather and dyeing in China and in many other countries.
This fruit, believed to be the favourite of Queen Victoria, is now one of the best known tropical fruits. The tree can easily be cultivated here and seedlings are available in all leading nurseries.