Mamoncillo (Spanish Lime)
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Spanish Limes, as they are called in the US, got their name because they resemble small, unripe limes. Typically clustered on a branch and usually sold as such, the thin skin is smooth and leathery. The pulp, gelatinous and glistening is called an “aril” and looks very similar to a lychee. The aril is the colorful, fleshy covering that clings to the seed of the Mamoncillo. The aril can range in color from orange to yellow and its taste can be both sweet and sour. When the fruit is ripe, the pulp is sweetly acidic and has been compared to a cross between a lime and a lychee.
Mamoncillo is available year-round in subtropical climates with occasional gaps.
Melicoccus bijugatus in the scientific community goes by many names in its native areas. It is known as Spanish Lime in the US, Quenepas in Puerto Rico, Mamones in El Salvador, and Ginep in Jamaica. Mamoncillos are not related to citrus; instead, they are considered a drupe (fruit that has an outer fleshy part, surrounding a hard shell that contains a seed), similar to most stone fruit.
Though Mamoncillo are best eaten fresh, out-of-hand, they are also used to make beverages, desserts and jellies. To eat a fresh Mamoncillo, bite into the thin skin and peel it back exposing the glistening pulp. The best way to eat a Mamoncillo is to pop the whole fruit into your mouth and suck the pulp from the seed. Mamoncillo can be used to make simple syrup that can be used in desserts and drinks. In Ecuador, Quenepas are eaten with salt and chili. The juice can stain, so use caution when eating.
Mamoncillo are native to Mexico, South and Central America, and the Caribbean. They grow mainly in tropical areas, though they can stand a few degrees of frost and can grow in Florida in the US. Native Americans used the juice from the Mamoncillo to dye cloth.
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