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Mangosteen in Southern California

7 years ago

I just tried a piece of fresh mangosteen fruit for the first time that I got from 99 Ranch Market (Irvine). It's incredibly rare to ever find fresh mangosteen being sold in the U.S. so I had to try one.

Smelling the outer fruit (before it has been opened up), there is a faint smell that is musky and perfumed and a little bit reminiscent of papaya. Inside, the texture of the fruit is very juicy, like peach The flavor is difficult to describe. There is an aroma of banana; not like regular bananas but like one of those very exotic banana varieties in Southeast Asia that have a tropical flavor. The mangosteen had another tropical aroma that I would describe as analogous to passion fruit or starfruit, but not quite the same as either. The seed to flesh ratio was not particularly good, and the inner half of the edible flesh had a tendency not to separate from the hard flat seed. Overall I would rate the flavor of mangosteen at about the same level as mango, just slightly below a good banana and a little bit higher than Rambutan.

I have read many reports saying mangosteen is very tropical and extremely difficult or impossible to grow in California (even in Miami, Florida it can have some trouble during the winter, supposedly) so I have been curious whether mangosteen could be grown in Southern California.

Searching through different message boards, I was able to find the following comment left by someone 5 years ago:

" I live near the coast in San Diego County, CA.(Zone 10). I just found several mangosteen trees being sold by ONG’s Nursery (2528 Crandall Dr. San Diego, CA). Cost for a 3 foot plant in a tall 5 gal. container was $105/plant. I thought they would only be found in greenhouse conditions but these were growing under a patio sunshade! I was told it would survive under a sunshade screen in full sun, (I have a 30% sunshade set-up for mine). "

I just called the nursery and a lady with a heavy Vietnamese accent answered the phone. It seemed like she had some difficulty understanding English but I asked her whether they carried mangosteen trees. She said yes, they did carry small mangosteen trees but they were only 1 foot tall. I asked her if they could produce fruit. She said it would take 4 or 5 years before they would have fruit. I then specifically asked her if she had ever seen mangosteen plants produce fruit in California. She answered yes.

In concluding this post, two things to keep in mind. Coastal San Diego probably has the least cold winter temperature lows out of anywhere on the West Coast. And secondly, mangosteen plants need humidity, and are probably going to have difficulty in Southern California because the humidity is not high enough. It's not surprising the post mentioned they were growing under shade cover. Many plants that love full sun in other climates do not like full sun here, their leaves get too dried out.

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