Nature’s Secret – The Quenepa Fruit?
The Quenepa fruit or Melicoccus bijugatus (scientific name) is a fruit-bearing tree that is native or naturalized in South and Central America, parts of the Caribbean, and across the New World tropics. It has become a culinary and cultural stable in many islands in the Caribbean and in countries in Central America.
It was first described by the Irish physician and botanist, Patrick Browne, as the genus Melicoccus in 1756. In 1760, the first species in Browne’s genus was described by Nikolaus Joseph von Jacquin and named it M. bijugatus. In 1762, spelling variations of Melicocca bijuga was used by Linnaeus. Regardless of the spelling variations or the local names, the Quenepa fruit is a treat for anyone who’s ever tasted it.
Quenepa goes by many names, depending on the location.
- United States – Mamoncillo or Spanish Limes
- Puerto Rico – Quenepas
- El Salvador – Mamones
- Jamaica and Guyana – Gineps
“Honey berry” is the literal translation of its Latin name.
How does the Quenepa fruit grow?
The Quenepa tree grows up to a height of 25 m with leaves that have four elliptic leaflets. Most of them are typically dioecious plants, but there are polygamous trees that occur from time to time. Its flowers produce green drupes, while the fruit is small, round, and green.
The small fruit measures anywhere from 3 to 4 centimeters in diameter. It is almost round, with one end slightly tapering or protruding.
Peel off the thin, rigid, and leathery skin and you will see the pulp that can be orange, salmon, or yellowish with a texture that is juicy and pasty. The tangy flesh is often called “aril.” Quenepa fruits usually grow in large bunches, with one branch bearing 12 or more fruits.
Quenepa fruits are available in the summer months.
This tiny tropical fruit is often described as a cross between a lime and a lychee. It is also more commonly known as the Spanish lime and Mamoncillo.
Its tastes can be described as similar to that of a tropical lemon drop candy. Because it has a large white seed or two at the center, most people eat it by sucking on the pulp surrounding the seed.
Despite its association with lime, Quenepa is not a citrus fruit but more commonly related to lychee and rambutan. Similar to most stone fruits, it has a hard shell that contains the seed and is surrounded with an outer fleshy part.
The creamy soft pulp of Quenepa is said to be packed with various minerals and vitamins. It also has a unique and powerful flavor, which is why it is used in a wide variety of dishes and for meal preparations.
How to eat Quenepa
- Bite into or puncture the thin skin to peel it back and exposed the pulp.
- Pop the whole fruit into your mouth and suck until nothing’s left but the seed.
It is recommended to eat the Quenepa fruit fresh and right out of the skin.
What makes the Spanish lime good to eat is its:
- Nutritional density and value
- High in vitamin C in vitamin A
- High in dietary fiber, iron, calcium, lysine, and tryptophan
- Has powerful organic acids and antioxidants
- Low level of calories
- Zero fats
Many believe that the Quenepa fruit is highly beneficial to human health.
The fruit, however, isn’t the only thing that you can enjoy from the Spanish lime.
Other applications of Quenepa
The seed of the Mamoncillo can be roasted and eaten like you would chestnuts. So make sure you don’t throw it once you sucked out the pulp. You can still use it to make some snacks.
Mix equal parts sugar and water with the small fruits and then simmer. This will create a simple syrup that you can use in drinks and desserts.
A simple recipe uses a half cup sugar, a half cup water and a half pounds of shelled Mamoncillo fruit.
Sweet alcoholic drink
Soak the Quenepa fruit in sugar and rum to create an alcoholic drink that is sweet to the taste. This infusion is a recent development in Puerto Rico but has gained popularity over the years that it has been considered a tradition.
A traditional recipe contains white rum, some spices and sweeteners, and about 20 to 30 peeled Quenepa fruits. The mixture is then bottled and buried underground for about a month before it is served and enjoyed.
The Arawak, indigenous tribes of the Caribbean, use the juice extracted from the fruit as dye. The juice leaves a permanent brown stain.
Quenepa fruits also made an appearance in local lore. In Jamaica, it is believed that young girls learn the art of kissing when they eat the fruit, locally called Guineps. Legend also says that if a woman eats a fruit with two seeds in it, she will bear twins.
What are the health benefits of Quenepa fruits?
Improve bone strength and durability
As a good source of calcium, Quenepa can help maintain bone mineral density as you age. If you lack calcium, it is also a sweet and tangy method of maintaining a regular flow of calcium into your diet.
Eating the fruit regularly will help prevent osteoporosis and other related bone weaknesses due to age.
With a high supply of vitamin A and vitamin C, Mamoncillo supplies a number of key vitamins and minerals that are needed for the immune system to function. Vitamin C stimulates the production of white blood cells, strengthening the immune system.
Both vitamin A and vitamin C also function as antioxidants that eliminate free radicals in the body, easing stress and strain.
Increase production of red blood cells
The Quenepa fruit contains a significant amount of iron that is key to a high production of red blood cells. With your iron reserves replenished, risk of anemia is avoided. It also ensures you have fresh oxygenated blood circulating around your body.
The fruit has a high concentration of dietary fiber that is essential in digestion. It stimulates peristaltic motion and bulks up stool. If you suffer from bloating, constipation, and cramping, you should eat Spanish lime. Not only will this help ease symptoms, it will also improve the efficiency of the nutrient uptake in your stomach.
Maintain hormonal function and balance
Phosphorus deficiency could have a negative impact on your body’s hormonal function and balance. As a solution, you should eat a good amount of Mamoncillo to receive the phosphorus that your body needs. This will result in growth and development.
Treat anxiety and mood instability
In tropical countries, a natural remedy for anxiety and mood swings are Quenepa fruits. This is due to the fact that the fruit has a concentrated amount of minerals and vitamins that contribute to normal neurotransmitter levels. This is why it is eaten by women during menstruation. You should eat it when you’re experiencing unexplained anxiety or unstable mood.
Promote weight loss
Remember zero fats, low calorie, and high in fiber? This combination is what every weight loss diet need. So if you want to go on a diet without necessarily starving or making yourself sick, eat lots of Spanish limes. And because you would feel full after eating it, you won’t feel the need to eat or have a snack between meals.
The fruit has tryptophan, which is essential to induce sleep and stimulate the production of serotonin. As a good feeling neurotransmitter, eating the fruit can clear your mind and ease anxiety and worries. The result is a restful and rejuvenating sleep.
Although research is still at its early stages, results showed that Quenepa has a positive effect on blood sugar levels. It helps optimize the body’s insulin-glucose balance so that peaks and plunges of blood sugar is prevented. This is good news for people suffering from diabetes.
Reduce the risk of blood pressure
Quenepa fruits contain many phenolic compounds that have been directly linked to cardiovascular health and cholesterol level reduction. When blood pressure is lower, blockage is prevented, and the risk of heart attack and strokes are significantly reduced.
What are the healing benefits of Quenepa?
- Combat oxidative stress with the tannins found in the fruit.
- Prevent bacteria and virus reproduction in the body.
- Treat urinary tract infections and lung infections.
- Cure insomnia and improve sleep.
- Prevent reproduction of malignant cells, helping control cancer and prevent it from spreading.
- Help combat kidney problems.
- Help control diarrhea and treat constipation and stomach ulcers.
- Relieve cold symptoms and prevent flu and bronchitis.
Start eating Quenepa today
With all the health and healing benefits of Quenepa fruits, you should stock up on them. You will never know if you’d enjoy its sweet and tangy taste until you try it. But if you love lemon drops, you’ll surely enjoy it.
With its many applications, you don’t need to enjoy it raw either. You can make a variety of things from the fruits for a mix of treats from one source. Roasted Quenepa seed, anyone? How about some Bili, the Puerto Rican alcoholic concoction?