Real Food Encyclopedia | Mamoncillo

The juicy mamoncillo (Melicoccus bijugatus) is beloved across Latin America and the Caribbean and goes by many names: genip and guenepa in Barbados and Jamaica; quenepa in Puerto Rico, kenep in Haiti; maco or mamon in Colombia; Venezuela and Central America; limoncello in the Dominican Republic; and grosella de miel or guayo in Mexico. In English, the fruit is also sometimes called the Spanish lime for its sweet-tart taste. A crisp, refreshing snack that provides a welcome relief in the late summer, mamoncillo is common at Hispanic and Caribbean grocery stores around the U.S.

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Fun facts about mamoncillo:

  • The mamon is closely related to the lychee, rambutan and longan: all are members of the soapberry family, which also includes trees like maples.
  • The tree’s flowers are a magnet for hummingbirds and bees, which make rich, floral-tasting honey when they visit the nectar-rich flowers.
  • In some parts of Central America, the leaves of the plant are spread on the floor because they are said to attract fleas. After a few hours, the leaves and any insects that have gathered around them are swept out of the house.

What to look for when buying mamoncillo

Mamoncillos are often sold still on branches in large bunches. The branches should still be flexible — older fruit will have dry and brittle branches. The fruits should be fairly firm underneath the skin, but not hard. Fruits that are mushy or look withered may be past their prime. Avoid fruit with broken or bruised skin.

If you live in a warm area where the mamon is a popular street tree, you may be able to forage it during its late summer season.  Check state and local regulations for public picking and limit foraging to areas you know well, as trees in parks and on streets may be exposed to chemicals from lawn care and road maintenance.

Sustainability of mamoncillo


Mamoncillo is widely grown as a backyard plant and is also foraged throughout the tropical and subtropical parts of the Americas. As a result, many fruits that appear in markets are grown without chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Some larger growers may use synthetic fertilizers to get a bigger harvest. If you are concerned about chemical use, talk to the vendor about their growing practices.


Although the exact season varies by location, mamon is most common in the late summer and early fall, being most abundant in August.


The mamoncillo is native to Colombia and Venezuela, although it was introduced throughout the Caribbean long before Europeans arrived in the region. Today, it remains most popular in Central America and the Caribbean, although it can also be found in India.

Within the US, the fruit is widespread as a backyard and street tree in Florida, where its popularity with Caribbean communities makes it relatively easy to find at fruit stands and farmers’ markets.

Eating mamoncillo


Keep the fruits on the branches until you eat them. Fruits don’t ripen further after being picked, so try to eat them as soon as possible. They will last for up to a week at room temperature, and while refrigeration isn’t necessary, some people find the fruit more refreshing when cold.


Because the fruits have a relatively thin flesh and a large seed, most people enjoy eating them straight off the branch. The sturdy skin is easy to peel away. While some people remove the seeds before eating, it’s most common to put the whole fruit in your mouth and spit out the seed once you’ve scraped off all of the tart flesh.

Mamoncillos are used in some recipes, mainly juices and other beverages. In Jamaica, peeled fruit is soaked in boiling water with ginger and sugar before the juice is squeezed out and served over ice for a refreshing treat. In Haiti, the fruits are soaked in sweet, spiced rum to make kenep trempe. After infusing for a few days, the fruit can be eaten and the leftover rum will have a delicious, tart flavor from the fruits.


Soaking the fruits in alcohol is one way to preserve them, but they can also be made into jams and jellies, although this process is time consuming since there is a small amount of flesh per fruit.


Like many tropical fruits, the mamoncillo contains Vitamin C, though less than some others. It is relatively high in fiber and a source of phosphorus and calcium.


Top photo by Luis Echeverri Urrea/Adobe Stock.