Sunday, December 9, 2007

Mangosteen History

Named for the French priest and explorer Laurentiers Garcin (1673-1751), the mangosteen is thought to have originated in Southeast Asia. Its scientific name is Garcinia mangostana and today the fruit tree is cultivated in the tropical regions of both the eastern and western hemispheres with commercial plantations in Thailand, India, Malaysia, and the Philippines. A number of other countries in both Asia and South and Central America are smaller producers of the fruit. Prized because of its excellent flavor, in Asia it is called “the queen of fruits” and in the French Caribbean “the food of the Gods.”

Garcinia mangostana
belongs to the family Guttiferae which includes over 800 species of plants. Two of the relatives of the mangosteen, Hypericum perforatum (St. John’s wort) and Garcinia cambogia have already become well known as medicinal plants. What is amazing is that the mangosteen (no connection with the mango) has never been utilized for its multiple health benefits in North America or Europe despite history and popularity as a folk remedy in Asia, Africa, and South America. Until recently, it has been one of nature’s best-kept secrets. From the time a seed is planted, a mangosteen tree takes from 7 to 10 years to yield fruit. Even though the mangosteen is one of the slowest growing of the tropical fruit trees, it can reach 75 feet in height.