The mangosteen (Garcinia mangostana) is a tropical evergreen tree, believed to have originated in the Sunda Islands and the Moluccas. The tree grows from 7 to 25 meters tall. The edible fruit is deep reddish purple when ripe. The mangosteen fruit is known as the "Queen of Fruits", while the durian (Durio spp.) is known as the "King of Fruits". It is closely related to other edible tropical fruits such as button mangosteen, and lemondrop mangosteen.
The outer shell of the fruit is rather hard, typically 4-6 cm in diameter, resembling a spherical, black cartoon bomb. Cutting through the shell, one finds a very pale, fleshy fruit 3-5 cm in diameter. Depending on the size and ripeness, there may or may not be pits in the segments of the fruit.
The taste may be compared to an underripe strawberry with hints of sweet orange. Mangosteen is rarely sold in Western countries other than in some Asian groceries; they are illegal to import into the United States due to fears that they harbor the Asian fruit fly which would devastate US crops if it were ever introduced. This barrier to entry may be eliminated in the future as new produce irradiation techniques spread in popularity.
The mangosteen, along with other popular Asian fruits such as the rambutan and the longan, are now being grown and sold on some of the Hawaiian islands, although they are presently not being exported to the continental US due to the reasons stated above.
Care must be taken when opening the fruit as the red husk outside produces a purplish inky juice that stains fabric, which can be almost impossible to remove (the reason why they are banned from some hotels in countries where they are available). To open a mangosteen, the shell is usually broken apart, not cut. Holding the fruit in both hands, press it gently (thumbs on one side, the other fingers on the other) till the shell cracks. It is then very easy to pull the halves apart along the crack, and remove the fruit without staining.