Spanish Lime (Melicoccus bijugatus). This fruit has many other names, depending on the country in which it grows: chenet, genip, ginep, ginnip, gnep, guaya, quenepa, guinep, kenèp, limoncillo, mamón, mamoncillo and skinnip. It is not a citrus, but a fruit tree in the soapberry family, Sapindaceae. It is native to a wide area of the American tropics including the Caribbean, Central America, Colombia, Venezuela and Surinam. The fruit is similar to its cousin, the lychee. The seeds can be roasted and eaten. (from thenibble.com)
Upon arriving for our week-long investigative trip to DR, I noticed my upper right gums were feeling inflamed. Quite an irksome, though not painful, affliction. Lucky for me, the amazing limoncillo came to the rescue! It was limoncillo (or quenepa as they are known elsewhere in Latin America) season and boy were they everywhere! Anywhere we went- people’s homes, the market, roadside stands, on the street- people were sucking on limoncillos. They are small (bigger than a grape but smaller than a lime) and they sell them in bunches. The way to eat them is to bite the the skin so it breaks and then slide out the fruit and suck on it like a candy. It has a delicious sweet and tart flavor and a velvety texture which surrounds a large pit. We bought a big bunch on our second day there and Renzo, his mom, and I snacked on them all day long as we drove around the city. Mmmmmm…they were so juicy and Renzo and his mom both agreed they were the best limoncillos they’d ever had. We had purchased them up in the hills on a trip to see some land that Renzo’s uncle was interested in. The place we bought them was basically a parking lot with a giant limoncillo tree in the center. Apparently this tree is famous for having the best limoncillos around and let me tell you it didn’t disappoint! I must have eaten at least 30 of them, one after another. By the end of the day I happened to notice my gum inflammation was almost gone. Not having made the connection yet, I eased up on my consumption the next day and what do you know, the inflammation came back. That’s when I realized the limoncillos were definitely helping and I starting popping the little suckers again. No sooner had I upped the dosage did my inflammation start to disappear. Amazing! I told Renzo what I was noticing and he postulated it might be the Vitamin C.
It got me curious so I did a little research and here’s what I found on the American Botanical Council’s website:
Genip or Kenip Melicoccus bijugatus, Sapindaceae
“The genip or kenip tree is native to Guyana, Venezuela, and Margarita Island. It was introduced to the USVI many years ago, later escaped, and is now naturalized and ubiquitous throughout the USVI. Its fruit, which contains a high level of carbohydrates, is borne in clusters that are easily accessible and popular to eat.
Virgin Islanders sometimes eat genip or kenip fruit to alleviate diarrhea,4 and Haitians sometimes consume powdered roasted genip seed syrup or tea for the same purpose.3 Virgin Islanders have also been known to take a decoction of genip leaves and stems orally for coughs and fever.4 In Haiti, the macerated juice of genip leaves is gargled to relieve sore throat, thrush, and tonsillitis.3 A decoction of genip leaves is also drunk in the Bahamas to lower blood pressure.5″
Here’s a breakdown of the nutrients from Purdue University ‘s Horticulture website:
Food Value Per 100 g of Edible Portion*
|Carotene||0.02-0.44 mg (70 I.U.)|
|Ascorbic Acid||0.8-10 mg|
*Analyses made in Cuba, Central America and Colombia.
Hooray for natural cures! So Renzo was right, they do contain high amounts of vitamin C, just like a typical lime. Well it must be said that sucking on nature’s candy beats cough syrup or listerine any day!