2000s Archive

Meet the Mangosteens

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This doesn’t mean that all exotics grown on Hawaii can be irradiated and shipped to the mainland immediately, however. Government scientists must study the pests each fruit carries to determine the dose of electron-beam radiation needed to kill them, and establish a treatment protocol; this entire process takes two years or more. The more widely planted papaya, rambutan, longan, and lychee have already been approved and shipped to mainland stores, but mangosteen just completed its pest risk assessment, and its export awaits regulatory review.

For now, American aficionados must still travel to Hawaii, Australia, Asia, Canada, or Europe to enjoy mangosteen. The day may soon come, however, when the Queen of Fruits will make an official visit to our shores, and contraband mangosteen will be a thing of the past.

Getting the Most from Peak Season

  • On Hawaii’s Big Island, the season for exotic tropical fruits peaks in fall and runs into early spring; mangosteen is most likely to be available from September through early November. The tourist hotels in Hilo are rather drab, but five blocks from downtown, the Shipman House Bed & Breakfast Inn is a splendid Victorian mansion with a lush orchard and hospitable fifth-generation owners. (131 Kaiulani Street; 800-627-8447; shipmanhouse.com; from $154 for multiple nights and $179 for one night)
  • The Hilo farmers market, the best on the island, is open year round and offers all sorts of tropical fruits in season, including mangosteen and rare Ice Cream bananas. Don’t miss the stand of Ulf (“The Swede”) Wiel-Berggren, who came to surf and stayed to farm. (Kamehameha Avenue at Mamo Street; Wednesdays and Saturdays, dawn to 4 p.m.)
  • Hula Brothers, the Big Island’s largest grower of exotic fruits, sells rambutans and longans by mail order. (Seven to eight pounds for $60 to $65; 808-966-6633; hulabrothers.com) —D.K.
david karp,
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