Mangosteens Are All the Rage in New York City A mangosteen craze has swept New York City, after the first commercial crop of the fruit in decades reached a select few vendors.
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Mangosteens Are All the Rage in New York City

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Mangosteens Are All the Rage in New York City

Mangosteens Are All the Rage in New York City

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

A couple of months back, we brought you news of the arrival in the U.S. of the legendary Indian mango.

Now NPR's Andrea Hsu reports on another exotic and succulent arrival.

ANDREA HSU: Early this morning, a truck dropped off a once forbidden tropical delicacy at Agatha & Valentina's, a gourmet grocery store on New York's Upper East Side.

In total, some 30 pieces of reddish purple fruit, each about a size of a billiard ball. The staff took this precious cargo and arranged half of it in a white basket. There, the fruit sat like Easter eggs atop pile of pastel-colored raffia.

Store manager B.B. Brave(ph) was concerned about thieves.

Ms. B.B. BRAVE (Store Manager, Agatha and Valentino's): I'm worried about it because if I leave it right on the floor, it's likely that people would easily, because I have a lot of customers call in because of this item. Chances are I'm going to have a lot of people pick-pocketing it, is not paying for it. So then, my best bet is to put it close to my expensive item, which is the caviar, to put it right there.

HSU: Across from the caviar is the bakery where pastry chef Irene Martinez(ph) shook her head at the price of these things, between 12 and 15 dollars a piece.

Ms. IRENE MARTINEZ (Pastry Chef, Agatha and Valentino's): It's way too much. I wouldn't pay for it because we have a lot of those in the Philippines, and I, you know, it's not one of my favorite fruits anyway.

HSU: What's selling here are mangosteens, and here's why they're so coveted. The U.S. government had long banned the import of fresh mangosteens from their native Southeast Asia out of fear of pests. And no one has been skillful enough to grow them in commercial volume in other tropical climates until now.

This year, American grower Ian Crown's mangosteen trees in Puerto Rico have born close to 500 pounds of fruit, barely enough to call it commercial crop, certainly enough to create a buzz, and lots of work for his distributor, Erwan Landivinec of Baldor Foods.

Mr. ERWAN LANDIVINEC (Vice president at International Produce Exchange, Baldor Foods): The people went literally nuts about it. I mean, it's just a little bit crazy. Just for a few pound of the new fruit, I mean, come on. Phone calls, e-mails and journalists and then you, as well. Food critics, people that begging to get some and which come to nothing about it because it's just not simply not enough.

HSU: Today's delivery to Agatha and Valentina was actually his third miniscule shipment of mangosteens. Another store manager, Sarah Taylor(ph) says it's still not enough.

Ms. SARAH TAYLOR (Store Manager, Agatha and Valentino's): People who missed out were so upset that we ended up - when we got the second shipment in - delivering them single mangosteen out to people's apartment in the neighborhoods because they were just, like, I need it, I want it.

HSU: For those who don't make this year's harvest, here's the good news. The USDA recently told Thailand it can export eradiated mangosteens to the U.S. The first fruit is expected to arrive late this year. As for how today's delivery is selling, by 4 p.m., five mangosteens have been purchased and the phone calls keep coming and coming.

Andrea Hsu, NPR News.

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