magical mystery fruit

Roll out for the mystery fruit. Step right this way.

Yesterday, John, Phoebe and I took the train into town to attend the Cambridge Carnival International, a primarily Caribbean street festival in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


We got there a bit on the early side, so things were pretty tame when we arrived. Things got quite a bit more crowded as the afternoon progressed, though. There were lots of international food vendors there, which was exciting. (The vegetarian options were somewhat limited though. We ended up getting some so-so Indian food that had probably been cooked the day before.) We mostly spent the time at the festival wandering back and forth, taking some pictures, listening to the music, and looking at people. There were lots of non-food vendors, too, mostly in stalls. I went wild and got a tattoo. Well, I went very moderately wild and got a temporary tatoo. (Anyone want to guess what image I chose?)

At some point, we wandered past a woman selling mangos and some other kind of fruit, sitting on a chair in the road median with a stack of boxes. There was a little ring of people around her, buying this green fruit. I couldn’t identify the fruit as we walked past. Later, I noticed people walking around eating this fruit, and saw some green rinds on the ground (scattered among the bits of sugar cane that people had gnawed on). Towards the end of our festivating, I walked past this fruit woman again. There was no crowd this time. I watched her crack one of the green fruits open in her fingers, and pop the fleshy fruit insides of it into her mouth. She then rolled it around in her mouth a bit. I was intrigued.

“How much are they?” I asked, avoiding trying to name them. I didn’t ask their name. In part to seem as if I knew what I was doing, in part to keep the mystery. I bought a baggie of them for 3 dollars.

I’ve eaten a couple of them, still without knowing what they are. They are sweet with a slight bitterness to them, that reminds me a bit of underripe bananas, and which left my tongue feeling slightly furry and numb. The fruit is almost all pit, explaining why the woman rolled it in her mouth. It seems you sort of suck on the pit, and chew the fruit off. They are about the size of a walnut, with a rind that comes off easily, and that resembles a lime peel.

These are photos of some fruit I bought yesterday. I have no idea what it is. It is definitely tropical. Probably Caribbean. Can anyone name that fruit?

In related news, today was farm day for me once more. Meaning I headed back to the farm for my week’s CSA share. Like last week, the share included 10 pounds of tomatoes. I have been working on last week’s tomato haul, but still have quite a few left. (By the way, my photo of last week was of only a portion of the tomatoes.)

Here are my remaining tomatoes of last week, probably about 4 pounds. (Note: the small person standing in the photo is not a tomato.):


Below is this week’s full 10 pounds. (Not including last weeks remnants.) They include a lot more yellow and orange varieties. (Notice the large, orange brain-shaped one on the right?)


I also got some husk tomatoes, which were an exciting discovery for me. They were pick-your-own, and I opted out of them last week due to Phoebe’s mood. But I went solo today, and decided to pick-my-own. We could gather a pint total of cherry tomatoes and husk tomatoes. The farm apprentice gave me the low down on the picking before I headed to the fields, including the details the husk tomatoes are ripe when the husks are brown, and the ones that have already fallen on the ground are often the best.

I decided to try the husk tomatoes first, as I was curious. (I’m always game to try a new fruit or veggie.) I tasted the first one I found, and wow! Them’s good eatin’! I decided to gather my whole pint of husk tomatoes. These are tiny little things, though they seem to grow in other sizes, too. Each is the size of a large blueberry, and is wrapped in a little balloon of husk. They taste very sweet, more like a berry or a currant than a tomato. (Tomatoes are berries, after all.) These may also be the same fruit that is known as a ground cherry, and are akin to tomatillos.


These are the husk tomatoes I picked. I put in an averaged sized regular red tomato for scale. (Note that the plate in this photo is a smaller plate than the ones used in the big tomato photos above.)

77 thoughts on “magical mystery fruit

  1. No idea what that fruit is. But anything that leaves the tongue furry is not for me.

    Tattoo: pictures? I can’t guess. I’m feeling sick from having to go to an OB appt and step on their wicked, wicked MAJORLY NOT accurate scale later this morning.

  2. These are photos of some fruit I bought yesterday. I have no idea what it is. It is definitely tropical. Probably Caribbean. Can anyone name that fruit?

    Quenepa (Puerto Rico) or chupete in south and central america

  3. They’re shea nuts. The kind that make shea butter. Especially if they are almost all pit. When they’re ripe, they have a fruit around them. Was the pit brown?

  4. jwbates-
    Yes, they are pretty cool boots. Though I’m pretty sure they are not being worn by a tomato. At least in that picture.

    I believe it is not a lychee, though it may be related to one. Lychee is a cool word to say. And no, not a pigeon. (See John’s site for a look-see.)

    I’m sure the scale is just being creative. Feel free to interpret its story however you like.

    No, no pigeon. Nor a woman. (Funny thing, though. Hello Kitty was one of the options. And I ever-so-briefly considered it, thinking of you.)

    I’ve enjoyed a few tomato sandwiches myself! Sorry I can’t share them with you. I certainly have enough to go around. And thanks for the compliment on my other cute little tomato (or not tomato), as well as for dropping by!

    I think you are on to something. I found some info via a link I found by googling “mystery fruit.” Which suggests quenepa, and the Wikipedia listing for mamoncillo.

    Thanks. Or should I be embarrassed?

    I think they seem more like quenepas, from the photos I’ve seen. The pits are pretty light colored, but hard to see with the string fruit stuck to them. I haven’t tried crackign one open. I do wonder if they are related, though.
    I had meant to contact folks to see who was around, be we were so disorganized and caught up with other things that I wasn’t even sure we were going till pretty late Saturday night.
    Where’s Ipswich, by the way? And was it as festive as Cambridge?

    Yes, Phoebe keeps growing. Up, even. And sorry I can’t share my tomatoes with you. I really need to share my tomatoes.

  5. tattoo guess: a schwa?

    My tomato consumption for today:
    -one pint cherries (after giving some out to officemates)
    – two small tomatoes while talking to you
    – the husk tomatoes
    – dinner- large red, small green, small yellow
    – just now, because your post made me crave more tomatoes: small fuzzy yellow one

    There has got to be a tomato saturation point, no? I’ll let you know if I get there.

  6. bs-
    No, no schwa. But that would be cool. Especially if it had flames. (Did you check out John’s link for the real answer?)
    And, damn, you can sure eat a lot of tomatoes. If I had your tomato-eating prowess, perhaps I could eat 10 pounds of them in a week.

    painted maypole-
    The CSA thing is definitely worth a try. It’s not all fun and games, but it is a vegetabular adventure. (And up till last week, we had been tomato-free. Of course, the first few weeks were all about lettuce. Lots and lots of lettuce.)

  7. Hi! We are not nearly so deep in tomatoes as you are – your pile is awesome!

    I find the CSA strangely liberating in the lack of choice – it forces me to invent things with vegetables I don’t think I like – because I’ll be damned if I toss any out!

  8. magpie-
    Hello! The tomato pile is indeed awesome. Especially if, by that, you mean daunting.
    I also appreciate the enforced creativity with vegetables. I got to meet kohlrabi for the first time, which I enjoyed. But I’m afraid there have been more than a few fine veggies that have made it out to the compost pile.

  9. I realize I’m a bit late in adding to this discussion, but those fruits are definitely quenepas, or mamoncillos. I also know them by the name “genip” (pronounced g’nipp), which is what they’re called in the Virgin Islands, where I have eaten them many times. I absolutely love them. I think the taste is reminiscent of lychee but has a citrusy sourness that I can’t get enough of.

    The trees they grow on get quite large in the Virgin Islands, so it can be a challenge to get at the fruit. I have to admit to spending a lot of time looking around for ones that have just fallen off the tree but haven’t been got at by ants, mongooses, or other critters. So that this critter can get at them.

    Mmmmm, how good they are. Boy do I wish they grew in Sweden. Oh, well.

  10. the fruit has many names. like some of the other ppl already name but these are some more Guinep, Akee, Canep, Chenep, Kenip, and Spanish Lime. I know it as akee.(saint lucia)

  11. You can find that fruit all over the tropics, It’s called a Genip. The scientific name for Genip is Melicoecus Bijugatus.

  12. The fruit is called genip has a variation in pronunciation….It is found across the Caribbean region. Every Caribbean child loves such fruits when its in season oh boy i cant wait ….but if way too much is eaten, just watch out for some constipation

  13. I just came accross your story because I was looking for some images of that fruit to save on my computer. My family is from Trinidad and Tobago and we call it Chenet (pronounced Chen-Net) and yes, the flesh of the fruit sticks to your toungue. It’s one of my favorite fruits. Hope that helps :)

  14. The little green fruit that resembles a baby lime are called “Kenip”. They are one of my favorite fruits from the Caribbean. Although you can also get them in Florida! I hope this helps.

  15. I am from St. Lucian in the Caribbean, West Indies and we have a couple of names for your mystery fruit including Guinep (many variations of spelling) and Chenet. My husband who is Hispanic calls it genepas (I think I spelled that correctly). Hope that helps.

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