Ever since 2003, when the late great R. W. " Johnny" Apple Jr. wrote about his unabashed love of the once forbidden (at least in the U.S.) mangosteen, I've been hankering to try one. This is what he wrote that got me so excited: "No other fruit, for me, is so thrillingly, intoxicatingly luscious, so evocative of the exotic east, with so precise a balance of acid and sugar, as a ripe mangosteen.... I'd rather eat one than a hot fudge sundae, which, for a big Ohio boy, is saying a lot."
When Johnny Apple says that he would rather eat a mangosteen than a hot fudge sundae, that's a powerful statement.
Fruitmeister David Karp (the New Yorker once called him the fruit detective) reported last year that the mangosteens were at last coming to the U.S. This year I had read that they were available at Agata & Valentina and Dean & DeLuca in New York, and at Kings Super markets in New Jersey, but I have to admit that the Serious Eats mangosteens came in the mail from the exotic fruit sellers Frieda's Produce. Freida's ships irradiated (that's the only way they're allowed in this country) Thai mangosteens anywhere and everywhere there is a mangosteen lover.
Getting It Open
A mangosteen has a red shell, which makes it look like a pomegranate-shaped Christmas tree ornament. When we first looked at our mangosteens, we were not sure how to open them. The internet came to our rescue. Alaina found a video tutorial on opening and eating mangosteens.
Armed with that information, Robyn opened the mangosteens. I was trying to lower my expectations, but knowing that Johnny Apple preferred mangosteens to hot fudge sundaes, it was difficult.
The sections were milky white with faint markings. I popped the first one in my mouth. It tasted like nothing else I have ever had. Its creamy sweetness was cut by just enough acidity. In his story, Apple had written that a mangosteen's flavor "reminds me of litchis, peaches, and clementines, mingled in a single mouthful." I also detect more than a faint hint of mango, though Wikipedia disagrees.
Really? Better Than a Sundae?
Would I rather have a fresh mangosteen than a hot fudge sundae? If the hot fudge sundae is made with Shake Shack vanilla custard and its Valrhona-derived hot fudge, I don't think so. Were it a generic hot fudge sundae, however, then I would absolutely agree with my old friend Johnny.
Decide for yourself this weekend. Conduct your own hot fudge sundae–mangosteen taste test. Buy the best hot fudge sundae money can buy or make one at home and order a box of mangosteens from Frieda's. Mangosteens are extremely perishable, so they must be shipped overnight, which means a box of 8 to 12 mangosteens will end up costing you $39. Pricey but I believe worth it, if for no other reason than to pay tribute to the late, great, R. W. Apple Jr.
How to Eat a Mangosteen
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