Fruit Tree of the Day: Mangosteen

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Mangosteen Tree

Today’s fruit tree is the mangosteen tree. Mangosteens are delicious–better than lychees. Sadly, it’s rare to find fresh mangosteens. Rarely, my local Asian markets will carry them, but they cost $12 a pound. Worth every penny, though. They taste that good even though they’re usually bruised and at the tail end of their shelf life. I imagine ones right off a tree taste heavenly. You may also find some in the canned food section of your local Asian market. As always, fresh ones taste much better.

Unfortunately, they’re very hard to grow in the mainland US. They originated in Malaya, and sometime along the way most varieties lost true seeds–they developed a “nucellar asexual embryo” instead. Basically, the seeds are baby clones of the plant. Because of this, it’s very hard to breed new varieties, so for the most part the seedlings have to be grown in the same exact conditions the mother plant grew in. So, they need everything perfect: Constantly moist soil, (but not from standing water) soil with a high fertilizer content, high humidity, (not a problem in Florida! ) and (the clincher) consistent warm temperatures, never getting exposed to anything below 40. The plant will even stop growing if the temperature gets below 60. So it’s very difficult to grow outdoors in places that aren’t tropical.

It is possible to grow in a greenhouse, if you get all the other conditions right. I’m going to try to winter them indoors using plant growth lights. Seashore and lemon drop are two varieties that are supposed to be hardier, so I’m planting those. I was saving this post as one of the last ones because I was hoping to have pictures of my seedlings, but the seeds haven’t arrived yet. I ordered them from India in February, and they just now left India. I don’t want to hear one of you complaining about Meh’s shipping provider!