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Taste of the Caribbean: Genips Add Flavor to Summer Vacation

Taste of the Caribbean: Genips Add Flavor to Summer Vacation
Galería de Nydia Arroyo via Flickr

Of all the yummy things that grow on all the trees in the Caribbean, I’m not sure there’s anything that reflects the region’s broad diversity more than the sweet-’n’sour fruit treats pictured above. Growing up in St. Croix, I knew them as genips, though I could never understand why my Trini parents kept calling them chenets. Turns out these things go by nearly 20 different names depending on where you’re enjoying ‘em. Here’s the rundown according to Wikipedia:

The word Mamón is also sometimes used, though you’ll want to be careful using that word in the Spanish-speaking islands as it can also mean “person who sucks” or “large breast”.

Just as Patrick loves to visit the Caribbean in the springtime for the mangoes, I’m big on heading to the islands during the summer months when genips (or whatever you want to call them) are everywhere. Vendors will offer to sell you bunches of genips in urban areas and along roadsides throughout the region, but you can easily find them growing wild for a free snack.

When you do get your hands on some genips, you’ll want to bite the thin, green protective outer shell, cracking it open to get at the fruit inside. The fruit itself has a tart, tangy taste that is absolutely addictive. You don’t so much eat a genip as you suck the creamy pulp of the fruit as it sits in your mouth.

Once you’ve sucked all the pulp away, you’re left with a hard seed. Most people discard the seeds by spitting them out and moving on to the next genip. However, the seeds can be roasted and eaten just like sunflower seeds or chestnuts, extending snack time.

While visiting St. Croix a few years ago, I had the pleasure of staying at the Chenay Bay Beach Resort, which has a few genip trees right on-property. It was the 1st time I had stayed at a hotel on my home island (all the Bennett’s moved away years ago), which I thought would be a little awkward for me – no home-cooking, no family to hang out with, etc. Grabbing bunches of genips just steps from my cottage helped me to feel more “at home”, a taste of my youth placating my longing for family and the good old days.

Ever since then, I always like to check with my hotel ahead of summer trips to the Caribbean in hopes that they have a genip tree or 2. You should try it too… just be sure you use the right genip alias based on your destination.

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  • http://crindelstar.com/ Gigi de Lugo

    isn’t it always fun to introduce people to ________(whatever you want to call them) and teach them how to eat them!!! Oh the times I’ve done this while home in the islands and watching my visiting friends spitting out the seeds (I also eat the seeds raw rather than roasting them – will have to try roasting!) — thanks for another great blog to make me EVEN MORE homesick mesohn! * – going to St Croix in a couple of weeks!! Mango time!

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  • Kelly

    I have always loved genips ever since the first time I went to St. Croix. I wish we could grow them here in Florida!

  • http://twitter.com/Emmi134 Emmi Bances

    I really loved the way you have connected it to the taste of summer vacation!!!

    Caribbean vacations

  • jill

    I came across your blog while looking for a good johnny cake recipe..
    I can not express the fun I have had reading your posts!
    I  spent part of my youth on St Croix
    I too went to Country Day school…. a few years before you!
    I  STILL wear my hook ring and blue mountain Jewelry..
    I agree…. Sandy Beach is the best beach in the world!… and I lived in Hawaii
    But the post that made me contact you and thank you is this one!!
    I am obsessed with genips!
    We lived on Spring Gut for some time and had the biggest genip tree….
    I have spent years wondering why i can’t get them anywhere else!!
    At times i thought they were just an imaginary memory!!
    Anyway, thank you for the fun filled stroll down memory lane!
    ~Jill

  • Raynah barlowe

    Where can i find them i live in new jersey

  • Sandy

    Here in the Cayman Islands we call them genips too :).