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The Kraton tree can reach enormous heights of up to 45 meters tall and produce up 24,000 fruits a year. The round fruit is approximately softball sized and a deep golden color that is sometimes tinged with pink. The semi hard exterior surrounds milky white, juicy pulp that may be scooped away like the interior of a very firm melon. The innermost flesh is cottony in texture and tightly clings to 3-5 hard inedible seeds. Kraton fruits range from quite tart to pleasantly sweet and sour, developing flavors similar to that of a mangosteen, tropical and acidic.
Kraton fruit is available in the fall, domestically; but ripens earlier its native Southeast Asian climate.
Kraton is the Thai name for the fruit botanically classified as Sandoricum koetjape in the Meliaceae, or Mahogany, family. It is perhaps the only significant edible fruit in the entire family, found both wild and cultivated. Commonly known as Santol outside of Thailand, it is sometimes referred to as Wild Mangosteen, Cottonfruit, Sour Apple and Sandorica. There are two general types of Kraton, red and yellow, both varying greatly in their levels of sugar and acid.
Kraton fruit is a good source of fiber, pectin, phosphorous and calcium. Parts of the Kraton tree have anti-inflammatory properties and are used for the treatment of diarrhea and dysentery.
The interesting sweet and sour flavor profile of the Kraton make it a highly versatile fruit. It is often seen pickled in a salt and sugar brine and eaten as a sweet snack. A common local dessert involves macerating the pickled fruit into a sort of candy and then combining it with shaved ice. The fruit along with its pickling syrup may be used in cocktails, such as a Bloody Mary or Dirty martini. Kraton is also used in savory applications, and seen in regional curry dishes that feature the fruit’s subtly fragrant and sour flavor.
Some Southeast Asian cultures use a decoction of the Kraton leaves in a bath to reduce fever or as a tonic for mothers after childbirth. Chemical studies show that the inherent anti-inflammatory constituents of the tree would indeed be beneficial in such folkloric medicinal treatments.
Kraton is native to the Malaysian peninsula, but has since been naturalized throughout Southeast Asia and is cultivated in India, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia, Borneo, Indonesia, the Moluccas, Philippines, Mauritius and domestically in Florida. The Kraton tree is a tropical species and not tolerant to frost, but can thrive in both dry and moist environments.