Fresh-picked Mangosteen at my parents farm.
Mangosteen is a popular tropical fruit, native to all of South Asia. It is not the same as Mango. In India, Mangosteen is called ‘Kokum’. In its raw form it is a juicy, and extremely tart, fibrous fruit with a sweet aftertaste. The skin is thin and reddish in color, whereas the flesh is white, has a 6 segments (like the orange, but without the membrane), and each segment as a few seeds. The fresh fruit is perishable, so it is most often used dried. As the flesh dries away, the juices are concentrated into the fleshy parts of the fruit yielding semi-dried and completely dried mangosteen fruits or kokum. These are often available in ethnic grocery stores.
The Mangosteen fruit is rarely seen as fresh fruit in the US markets, but is available in canned form and juices are frequently seen in Asian food stores, health food stores, or via online retailers. When choosing dried or semi-dried forms of mangosteen, select clear packages where the raw materials are dark and free of powdery dust.
How and when to use
Mangosteen is used as a souring agent in Indian dishes. Depending on the desired intensity, mangosteen can be used for drinks, warm sippers and even in daal or add it to the final steps of a simple Varan preparation. Although there is no comparison to the Mangosteen flavor, adding Tamarind extract will impart a similar taste to your dish, with sufficient depth and complexity, to create a worthy alternate ingredient.
What part to use
Fresh mangosteen is best enjoyed raw. When using canned mangosteen, be sure to remove the seeds before using them, for they will catch you unawares. Dried mangosteen can be added to stews and allowed to boil along with the cooking liquid. If a dish does not have a cooking liquid, soak it in warm water and extract as much of the dark juice as you can, and add it to flavor your dish.
Mangosteen in Ayurveda
According to Ayurveda, it is considered to have ‘cooling’ properties and is an ideal ingredient to common summer drinks in India. It has many beneficial qualities, but in its pure form may not be tolerated well by individuals with arthritis or joint aches.