Taste of the Caribbean: Genips Add Flavor to Summer Vacation
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:
- *St. Lucia, Barbados - ackee (very different from the Jamaican version)
- *Trinidad & Tobago – chenet
- *Jamaica, St. Kitts - guaya, gnep, guinep, skinnip
- *Dominica, Guyana, Haiti, Belize, Bahamas, U.S. Virgin Islands - genip, guinep, ginnip, kenèp
- *Puerto Rico - talpa jocote, canepa, quenepa
- *Dominican Republic - genepa, xenepa, Spanish lime, limoncillo
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.