A few weeks ago, I was in Hawaii on vacation. One of my great pleasures on the islands is tasting all the tropical fruits grown there. Although I sell tropical fruits for a living, the truth is that nothing tastes like a ripe fruit, right off the tree.
So, after a lunch in Hilo, we decided to walk through the local farmers market on the main street through town. In California, when I go to a farmers market, I see lots of strawberries, tomatoes, citrus fruit, and avocados. In Hilo that day, I saw mounds of starfruit, guavas, lychees, chayote, rambutans, and, alas, one of my favorites, mangosteens.
I have such fond memories of mangosteens. When I was in high school, my mom imported the first mangosteens from British Honduras, now called Belize. I remember taking some samples of the dark purple, hard-shelled fruit to school; everyone looked at me like I was crazy as I showed them how to “squeeze” the hard shell and the amazing white flesh appeared. It was like a soft, tender fruit salad. After that first imported shipment, the USDA announced that the fruit could no longer be imported due to agricultural restrictions; many tropical fruits pose a threat to California agriculture as they are hosts to damaging pests.
Currently the only fresh mangosteens we get on a consistent basis are from Thailand and they have to be irradiated due to agricultural restrictions. Just recently we have been able to import them from Mexico.
But nothing rivals my memories of eating my first mangosteen back in high school. That was until my recent day in Hilo.
As we waited for our plane to arrive to take us to Maui, we tore through the bag of mangosteens. As you can see, we made a bit of a mess. A yummy mess!
And in case you’re wondering about the medicinal qualities of mangosteens (aka the Queen of Fruits), it is the outside shell that is used for its possible curative properties. The shell is dried and ground up to use as a supplement. Personally, I am satisfied with just the amazing flavor.
Next time you are in Hawaii, I encourage you to buy a dozen or so fruits. You will be surprised at how sweet and refreshing they are. But don’t try to bring any home to the mainland as there are strict penalties for smuggling fresh produce to the mainland U.S.!
I guess I’ll just have to go back to Hawaii soon for my mangosteen fix!