Santol is native to Cambodia, southern Laos, and Malaya. They have been naturalized in nations including Brunei, Sri Lanka, India, and the Philippines. The fruit is now in Indonesia, Mauritius, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, and Myanmar. The trees are grown in Sri Lanka and Myanmar for their wood.
Santol grows naturally in India’s tropical areas but is not collected economically. The fruit can survive in dry and humid circumstances as long as the elevation does not exceed 1,000 meters. Santol is a summer fruit available from June through August.
Santols start out as green cricket balls on the tree before becoming yellow, orange, and ultimately rusty yellowish-orange when mature. Some santols even have a rosy blush. Expect pink fuzz on these melons. Ripe fruits naturally fall off the tree.
Brown stains, marks, and streaks are prevalent on santols and do not always signify low quality. Pale, white underripe fruits should be avoided since they do not sweeten. Overripe fruits with soft, dark skin taste fermented and should be avoided.
As Santol is sometimes known, the cotton fruit gets its name from the fluffy white edible part that surrounds the seed. It has a spongy feel, and, like mangosteen, the flesh never wholly separates from the seed during storage. Sucking the flesh releases a milky, creamy, sweetish liquid enjoyed by almost everyone who tries it. To weigh out the sweetness of the juice, acidic, flowery, citrus, and vinous flavors are present. If the fruit has not been allowed to completely mature, it will have a bitter taste.
The taste of the exterior flesh is surprisingly savory, earthy, and astringent, with some comparing it to basil or oregano in flavor. Almost no one disputes that the outside, grassy tasting meat of a santol is not nearly as delicious as the cottony part of the fruit. Because the rind is very sour, some people choose to dry, crush, or pickle it to utilize it as a souring agent.