November 21, 2009


mamoncillo, fruits and health, dailyfruits.blogspot.comOne of the minor fruits of the family Sapindaceae, the mamoncillo (Melicoccus bijugatus Jacq., syn. Melicocca bijuga L.) has, nevertheless acquired an assortment of regional names, such as: ackee (Barbados only; not to be confused with Blighia sapida, q.v.); genip, ginep, ginepe, guenepa, guinep (Barbados, Jamaica, Bahamas, Puerto Rico, Trinidad and Tobago); grosella de miel (Mexico); guayo (Mexico); honeyberry (Guyana); Jamaica bullace plum, kanappy (Puerto Rico); kenet (French Guiana); knepa (Surinam); knepe (French West Indies); knippa (Surinam); limoncillo (Dominican Republic); macao (Colombia, Venezuela); maco (Venezuela); mamon (Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Argentina); mamon de Cartagena (Costa Rica); marmalade box (Guyana); mauco (Venezuela); muco (Colombia, Venezuela); quenepa (Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Colombia); quenepe (Haiti); quenett (French Guiana); sensiboom (Surinam); Spanish lime (Florida); tapaljocote (El Salvador).


The mamoncillo tree is slow-growing, erect, stately, attractive; to 85 ft (25 m) high, with trunk to 5 1/2 ft (1.7 m) thick; smooth, gray bark, and spreading branches. Young branchlets are reddish. The leaves are briefly deciduous, alternate, compound, having 4 opposite, elliptic, sharp-pointed leaflets 2 to 5 in (5-12.5 cm) long and 1 1/4 to 2 1/2 in (3.25-6.25 cm) wide, the rachis frequently conspicuously winged as is that of the related soapberry (Sapindus saponaria L.). The flowers, in slender racemes 2 1/3 to 4 in (6-10 cm) long, often clustered in terminal panicles, are fragrant, white, 1/5 to 1/3 in (5-8 mm) wide, with 4 petals and 8 stamens. Male and female are usually borne on separate trees but some trees are partly polygamous. The fruit clusters are branched, compact and heavy with nearly round, green fruits tipped with a small protrusion, and suggesting at first glance small unripe limes, but there the resemblance ends. The skin is smooth, thin but leathery and brittle. The glistening pulp (aril) is salmon-colored or yellowish, translucent, gelatinous, juicy but very scant and somewhat fibrous, usually clinging tenaciously to the seed. When fully ripe, the pulp is pleasantly acid-sweet but if unripe acidity predominates. In most fruits there is a single, large, yellowish-white, hard-shelled seed, while some have 2 hemispherical seeds. The kernel is white, crisp, starchy, and astringent.

Season and Harvesting

In Florida, the fruits ripen from June to September. In the Bahamas, the season extends from July to October. Ladders and picking poles equipped with cutters are necessary in harvesting fruits from tall trees. The entire cluster is clipped from the branch when sampling indicates that the fruits are fully ripe. At this stage, the rind becomes brittle but does not change color. If picked prematurely, the rind turns blackish, a sign of deterioration.

Keeping Quality

Because of the leathery skin, the fruit remains fresh for a long time and ships and markets well. The tropical horticulturist, David Sturrock, related that horsemen in Cuba often hung branches of mamoncillos on the saddle horn to enjoy and relieve thirst during long rides.

Food Uses

For eating out-of-hand, the rind is merely torn open at the stem end and the pulp-coated seed is squeezed into the mouth, the juice being sucked from the pulp until there is nothing left of it but the fiber. With fruits that have non-adherent pulp, the latter may be scraped from the seed and utilized to make pie-filling, jam, marmalade or jelly, but this entails much work for the small amount of edible material realized. More commonly, the peeled fruits are boiled and the resulting juice is prized for cold drinks. In Colombia, the juice is canned commercially.

The seeds are eaten after roasting. Indians of the Orinoco consume the cooked seeds as a substitute for cassava.

Food Value Per 100 g of Edible Portion*
Calories 58.11-73
Moisture 68.8-82.5 g
Protein 0.50-1.0 g
Fat 0.08-0.2 g
Carbohydrates 13.5-19.2 g
Fiber 0.07-2.60 g
Ash 0.34-0.74g
Calcium 3.4-15 mg
Phosphorus 9.8-23.9 mg
Iron 0.47-1.19 mg
Carotene 0.02-0.44 mg (70 I.U.)
Thiamine 0.03-0.21 mg
Riboflavin 0.01-0.20 mg
Niacin 0.15-0.90 mg
Ascorbic Acid 0.8-10 mg
Tannin 1.88 g
Amino Acids
Tryptophan 14 mg
Methionine 0
Lysine 17 mg
*Analyses made in Cuba, Central America and Colombia.

Seed Hazard

It has been said that the pulp fibers coat the lining of the stomach, adversely affecting the health, but this has been denied by the Government Chemist of the Department of Science and Agriculture in Jamaica who declares that fatalities in children are the result of choking on the seed. When coated with pulp, it is very slippery, is accidentally swallowed and, because of its size, lodges in the throat, causing suffocation or strangulation.

Other Uses

Juice: A dye has been experimentally made from the juice of the raw fruit which makes an indelible stain.

Flowers: The flowers are rich in nectar and highly appealing to hummingbirds and honeybees. The honey is somewhat dark in color but of agreeable flavor. The tree is esteemed by Jamaican beekeepers though the flowering season (March/April) is short.

Leaves: In Panama, the leaves are scattered in houses where there are many fleas. It is claimed that the fleas are attracted to the leaves and are cast out with the swept-up foliage. Some believe that the leaves actually kill the fleas.

Wood: The heartwood is yellow with dark lines, compact, hard, heavy, fine-grained; inclined to decay out of doors, but valued for rafters, indoor framing, and cabinetwork.

Medicinal Uses: In Venezuela, the astringent roasted seed kernels are pulverized, mixed with honey and given to halt diarrhea. The astringent leaf decoction is given as an enema for intestinal complaints.