Strange Fruit: Guinep

The best thing about living in a multicultural area is the vast array of scary-ass fruit and vegetables that you’ve never heard of, and couldn’t have anticipated in your most imaginative nightmares dreams, but which find their way to the local grocery store nonetheless.  I finally built up the courage to buy a bright green and warty looking bitter melon (bitter disappointment, more like), and a few months ago there was “that incident” with durian.  Don’t even give me sympathy, guys. I knew better, and I did it anyway.

Strange Fruit: Guinep

(Picture from Faretrade, although I dare say she got it wrong.  The actual caption was, “Durian: King of Thai farts”)

My most recent and possibly terrifying fascination is to try each and every one of these foreign fruits and vegetables that I slowly push my cart past every week.  Foot long Chinese “okra”? Absolutely! Odd little tubers that look like tamarind pods on steroids? Can’t wait!  However, for the sake of my loving and affectionate husband, I decided to start us out small with twee little fruits on a branch that looked like mini limes but certainly had nothing else in common.  I present to you, the guinep.

Strange Fruit: Guinep

Formally known as melicoccus bijugatus, it could be that I chose these specifically for the name.  I mean, c’mon.  MELICOCCUS BIJUGATUS.  Tell me that you won’t be snickering as you repeat that phrase all day. Common to the tropics, apparently these fruit come from a branch of the “soapberry” tree, which sounds, if possible, even less appetizing than melicoccus.  There are many other names for guinep, including:

  • Spanish lime
  • Honeyberry
  • Chennette
  • Genip(e), Gunip, Guenip, Canep, Chenep, Kenip
  • Mamoncillo
  • Mapo
  • Akee (which is very inaccurate if you’re used to West Indian ackee and saltfish)
  • Skinip
  • Tjennét
  • Limoncillo; and my favorite….
  • Quenepa

Thank you, Wikipedia.  I totally owe you one.

According to the sign up at No Frills, these guinep were from Trinidad, although the fruit is also native to the South Pacific, Caribbean, Mexico and parts of Africa.  Guinep can be peeled and eaten as is, but it is also frequently pressed into a tart-sweet juice.  The skin is thin and easily peeled off, revealing a pale golden and somewhat sticky flesh, like a ripe peach that has been bitten and then left to wither in the sun for three hours.  And yes, that may be an indication of what was to come upon the first tasting.

Strange Fruit: Guinep

So what we really want to know is how do they taste?  Well, I suppose, to at least some of us, they taste like this:

Strange Fruit: Guinep

I believe that Mike described the guinep as, “chewing a rock…with hair.”

Inside that deceptively juicy looking flesh is a large, firm pit, similar to the inside of a lychee fruit. But, you know, bigger.  And more daunting. It could be that the flesh was thin and not particularly disposed to dissolving in one’s mouth. I sucked and sucked like Linda Lovelace, but to no avail. After 10 minutes, when I was approaching desperation and total acknowledgment of fruit failure, I realized that the fruit had only managed to deteriorate to a thick slimy scum of fibrous matted fur around an inordinately large seed.

…and I spat it out.

I’m sorry, good people of Trinidad. We don’t dig your slightly-less-than-delicious fruit.

Will we try again? ABSOLUTELY!  After all, hope spring eternal, and my penchant for buying suspicious produce is unlikely to disappear any time in the near future.

So, is next stop the root vegetable that looks like Satan’s second in command, or the “apple” that is, you know, totally just kidding?  You tell us, because if it can be found, we will eat it….at least once.

Strange Fruit: Guinep
  • http://www.eatatburp.com lo

    You get extreme kudos in my book for trying these things out. I’m always tempted when I see new, scary fruits… but then, with my luck, I figure I’ll eat the wrong part of them and kill myself by accident.

    Are there instructions for these sorts of things out there?

  • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Mike

    Eating one of these was like chewing the knuckle of a person who’d been working all day at an ice cream shop.

    • kiki74@hotmail.com

      You don’t eat it- you suck! Try it again- this fruit is wonderful. I am pregnant now and it is all i want to eat. Which is how i found your page.

  • Jan

    Strange fruit is one of my favourite parts of traveling (just last week, I stopped a lady in her tracks at a Philippino supermarket to ask her if she a) spoke english, and b) could tell me what the fruit I was holding was, how to choose a ripe one, and how to eat it)

    I would recommend:
    Sandor/santol (that’s what I just tried, and I liked it a lot, but….it may have the textural issue you were discussing above. raised asian, I’m less squicky about textures. However, it takes like a tart CANDY)
    Canistel (I just now learned what that was called in English!)
    Rose Apples
    Custard Apple and Cherimoya (similar to each other, but not identical)

    The award for “gorgeous but tasteless” goes to the yangmei fruit; it looks so, so pretty, and yet is utterly bland.

    (Warning: I love durian. However, not one of the above tastes or smells the slightest bit like durian.)

    Happy tasting, and please post about every weird fruit; I can’t wait to see what ‘ve been missing out on!

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

      Jan – this is *exactly* why we adore your comments. I think you shop like I do. “Mmm…that looks interesting and I have no idea what it is! I’m going to find someone who looks like they’d know, and THEN I’m going to get them to teach me how to choose, cook and eat it….with multiple recipes, if possible. Oh yeaaaaah….”

      Sandor tastes like candy? I am now on a mission.

      Oh, funny story about cherimoya. You know how the seeds are poisonous? Well, I *didn’t* know that the first time I ate one. I am officially living proof that, well, you know, they’re not THAT poisonous…….

  • Ginnie

    These look like cataract covered eyes wrapped in lime peel.

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Mike

      Same texture, too!

  • C

    Wow, really?

    I’m a little insulted by that picture of whoever trying a mamoncillo. I’m a Cuban American who was born and raised in Miami and we had those all the time during the summer.

    I think its a little ridiculous to call them “strange” and “foreign” when they are grown in Florida.

    i don’t think you should ever go to Miami and try half of the tropical fruits we have down there, I don’t think you could hang.

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Mike

      Aw, it’s okay to like (or not like) different things! It was at the front of my mouth because I had just attempted to bite into it — as one does when one is not expecting a gigantic inedible seed to be there — and was suffering the awful-jaw-pain consequences. Tina enjoys photographing my discomfort.

      As for strange or foreign, living in the part of Toronto that we do, we’re exposed to a rare and rich variety of produce from around the world, and this was one we’d simply never seen before… nor had anyone we’d talked to about them. Who knew they grew in Florida? Not us!

      And if half of the fruits in Miami were as surprising as this one, we’re willing to risk not being able to hang if it means getting to try them!

  • R. Khan

    I enjoyed your write up, Well done! These are not for everybody but good for you to try them.

  • Anna

    i used to eat this when i was younger! after playing in the sun all day.

    they need alot of sun and 35degrees or more with alot of water for them to really get “fleshy”

    now that i remmeber their name i’ll try looking for them again thanks!

  • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

    R.Khan – thanks for the comment! Yes, they weren’t for us, but we’re still so glad to have tried them.

    Anna – thank you kindly for your comment! I love hearing about the different foods, dishes or produce that people grew up with. Always very inspiring and a great reminder for us to keep trying new things!

  • http://www.alwaysorderdessert.com Alejandra

    These are my favorite! I grew up in New York, but my family is from Puerto Rico and we had these all the time growing up. In Puerto Rico they’re called “Quenepa” (pronounced ken-eh-pah)They’re available all over the place here in the city now and they are grown in Florida and other parts of the US. I absolutely love them! I actually wrote about them on my site a couple years ago. You might enjoy my little story about them: http://www.alwaysorderdessert.com/2009/07/quenepas.html

  • http://frugalkiwi.co.nz Melanie @ Frugal Kiwi

    Good on you for having a go. They COULD have been your favorite fruit ever. Obviously they weren’t but, hey, they could have been.

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

      Exactly! And you never know if you don’t try :)

  • Maureen

    Hi Mike,
    You must have gotten some that were not ripe. I’m in Jamaica, I was just eating some this evening, sweet and delicious. Try to get some ripe ones, they are not hairy. Chew on the pulp as if you are trying to bite the seed. It’s fun and time consuming to eat them.
    I applaud your bravery in trying new foods. Most people up North ( I recently moved down here from New York) don’t seem to like foods that are unknown to them.

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

      That’s a great tip, Maureen. Thank you! I think you might be right….they could have been under ripe and we really wouldn’t know any better. That said, we’re always up for trying something new, so maybe we’ll give them another shot sometime!

  • Adam Pratt

    We’ve spent time in St. Croix (USVI) where you can buy these on the roadside in summer and they are delicious. Think of it more like a hard candy than a fruit. You can suck on a single guinep for several minutes before you work the flesh off. We sit around with a big clump and friends and suck on them as we chat sort of like people do with peanuts or potato chips. After a while they start to numb your tongue a bit!

  • Janett

    Hey Mike,

    I’m in the Caribbean eating some now and mine are really good. The guineps in your picture look like they’re not ripe enough so they would have defintely been sour and/or “stainy”. Adam gives the best description on how to eat them.

    Some of them can be really sweet and delicious so I hope you don’t give up on them!

  • kaydie

    im a jamaican :D && ive grown up eating guineps so i dnt find it as strange tasting as you do…but reading wht you wrote abt it knda made me look at them differently lol

  • Tan

    Uhm, Mike you’re not supposed to chew on the guinep pulp;you’re supposed to suck on it then spit out the seed.

  • Tan

    By the way loved the article.

  • Jette

    I’ll second those who say… you must have eaten them before they were ripe. I came across your page while searching nostalgically for this tart little fruit I grew up eating in Central America. We moved to the States when I was 7 and I haven’t had one since, and could never find anyone here in NC who knew what I was talking about. Now years later, with the wonders of the internet, I have finally identified this childhood favorite, and will have to see if I can special order it somehow, particularly now that I am armed with the many other names it is known by!

  • Jacqueline Dwyer

    Great Fruit!!

    As a child growing up in Jamaica, this was one of my all time favourite fruit…

    I still eat them all the time when they are in season, and I just love them!!!

    They are definately better than eating junk food, wouldn’t you say!!!

    Just love’m…

  • Jim_and_lynn2005

    Am from the Iowa and clearly did not grow up eating these things but I spent a year living in Honduras. The ones I had there were kinda sweet/ tart and very addictive. I remember the texture being similar to a grape and having little trouble getting the pit out of the flesh with my teeth. They are the one food that think of most when I remember my time in Honduras.

  • BajanKidd

    This fruit is popular in all the caribbean. Only thing in Barbados we call them Ackees not guineps.

    • Nate

      They call Guinep, Ackee in Barbados. Tres bizarre.

  • natscan reduxit

    … I raed your reflections on Guineps and must say, you seem to awfully fixated on oral sex.

    • choosybeggarmike

      My friend, there is no such thing as an awful fixation on oral sex.

  • Bell

    I love this fruit. I have been going to Jamaica for 15 years. Married to a Jamaican and my favorite Jamaican food is GUINEP. YA MAN – Sweet and delicous and so much better than junk food that causes obesity! I think you need to go get a new bunch yours must of not been sweet man. You suck the fruit off never chew. One Luv, Jamaica and IL gal.

  • Melanie

    Which no frills did you find these at in toronto? Been looking for some for forever

  • http://www.facebook.com/MonsterMovieFan Madison Ostermeier

    You don’t have to completely just suck on it… You can bite it to get the rest of the gel-y stuff off, then spit out the pit, and repeat. I loved it so much when I tried it in Jamaica. Sad that I can’t find it here.

  • kiki74@hotmail.com

    I love love love Genip or ackee as we call them in Barbados. They taste so great. You have to suck the juicy flesh off the seed- some people roast the seeds and eat them as well.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jaylusky Jay Lusky

    I used to eat guineps all the time living in Panama…I love them…suck on them until the taste is gone, then spit out the seed.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jaylusky Jay Lusky

    The Rose Apple is also another wonderful fruit….Try it…you will like it…

  • Nathalie

    we are coming to the end of gunip season in the Bahamas. It is one of my favorite fruits grown locally, especially when sweet.

  • Judith

    Its really coincincental that i was eating a bunch of Guinep when i came across your Article. Must say i laugh till tears came to my eyes (not a good thing to do with a guinep seed in your month) so i gracked the seed so i could laugh better. Im Jamaican and though your opinion (and picture) of Guinep is quite hilarious (a rock with hair lol). I do enjoy guinep when the season comes around. The trick to enjoying them is to eat so much that you lose the feeling in your tongue and then you do it again the next day.

  • love fruits

    You are correct. they are totally different fruits; but it is also true that they are called totally different names in each island. In Barbados and St. Lucia the guinep is call “ackee” while the fruit you just described is called “jamaican ackee.”

  • Joe

    Like Jacqueline, I ate these as a kid in Jamaica. My brother and I would scope out the best genip trees and climb all over them like monkeys. Not all genips are created equal. There are large, thicker skinned, softish somewhat mild flavored ones. But the ones I liked were the smaller, rounder, thin skinned sweet-tart ones. No matter the type, suck them until the juice is gone then spit them out!

  • Joe

    HBrown, are you in the US? I’d be curious to see whether ackee would grow in the US. I miss it. When we were in Jamaica, my mom would make it with smoked pork chops.

  • Salair

    This was a fail, you are supposed to either suck on it, or bite the fleshy part with your front teeth. Not chew it. After you bite all of it off you spit the seed out. You can either bite the fleshy part while holding it in your fingers or just keep it in your mouth.

  • Ray

    Where can I find them in toronto? Which no frills did you find them at?

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

      Hi Ray! Sorry for the delayed response. We had purchased the guinep quite some time ago, so not sure if they are still carried. That said, the No Frills where we bought the fruit was Markham Rd & Steeles. Good luck on your hunt!

  • Eleanor

    I think the problem was where you had the guinep .. trinidad’s guineps are traditionally not sweet .. The Guinpeps in Jamaica are usually very sweet ( like sugar some times) juicey and fleshy. It is one of the few fruits that you can see a stranger and ask them for one and they will gladly oblige. I is very popular in the summer months – August trough to September and October. So next time try a Jamaican Guinep – preferably at the end of September early October .. and you will then change your mind about this fruit …

  • Joke Wurl

    different country different names

  • Larry

    When I was in the Navy I was stationed in the Panama Canal Zone 1971-74. We called them “Ginnups.” The way to eat them is to break the thin, green brittle skin with your teeth, they will crack open, then you pop the seed in your mouth and roll the fruit in your mouth using your teeth to scrape the thin layer of fruit from the large seed, then spit the seed out. I loved eating them, tasted most like a grape, a distinctive but very pleasant taste.I would love to taste one again! Last one I ate was 40 years ago.

    • juney

      I loved them too, grew up in Jamaica a kid eating them. Just brought some in NY they taste good. The way you described eating them is perfect.