WLRN Youth Radio Asks: What The Heck Are Spanish Limes?

Aug 4, 2016

Mamoncillo, genipe, ginepa, limoncillo, canepa and skinip.

These are just a few of the ways people refer to what English speakers call “Spanish limes.”

While everyone is recovering from overindulging in mangoes this summer, WLRN’s youth radio interns wanted to explore another tropical fruit ripening in this heat. While it’s not as popular as the mango, it’s a common landscaping plant in South Florida. So you might have one and not even know you can eat the fruit!

Spanish limes are about the size of ping pong balls.
Credit Wilson Sayre / WLRN

While they have “lime” in their name, the little green fruits the size of ping pong balls are not even in the same family. They’re more closely related to lychee, rambutan or longan. When you open them up they don’t look or taste like limes. It’s a mixed flavor, like sweet and sour. And you enjoy them like a lollipop without the stick: Just suck on it to get the juice out.

“In Spanish “to suck” [is] mamar,” explains Jim Stribling, director of the Redland Fruit and Spice Park. “So that’s why you have to do [to eat mamoncillo].”

The park grows more than 500 types of tropical fruit and visitors can walk around and taste a lot of them.

Jim Stribling holds some Spanish limes from the Montgomery variety of the tree.
Credit Wilson Sayre / WLRN

HISTORY

Jim is an expert on things like Spanish limes, several varieties of which are planted in the park.

He points out one enormous tree, full of fruit.

“This particular variety is called Montgomery and it's credited from Colonel Montgomery who was David Fairchild's peer in the in the fruit explorer years,” said Stribling.

He says, back in the day people like Colonel Robert Montgomery were paid by the U.S. Government to go to different countries and bring back good fruit. They hoped it could grow here in South Florida, so fruit like the Spanish lime stuck. But, that movement means we don’t know exactly where the fruit originated from.

Don't fall when climbing for Spanish limes like our instructor Wilson Sayre did.
Credit Jam'Mesha Briggs / WLRN

WHERE CAN YOU FIND SPANISH LIMES

Because it is a very lush tree, people often plant it in their back yards for shade. You can find Spanish limes at some grocery stores like Price Choice and Tropical Market. You can also get them from many roadside fruit vendors.

Spanish limes are found from Ecuador to South Florida, until about Palm Beach.

“It will grow anywhere it won’t freeze,” said Stribling. And you can find a lot in neighborhoods like in Overtown, just a few blocks away from the WLRN studios.

Here’s a few of the ones we found in Overtown.

HOW TO EAT

Step one: Find a good Spanish lime. That means squishy, but not brown and rotten. Make sure the peel is still intact.

One option for cracking the peel on a Spanish lime.
Credit Wilson Sayre / WLRN

Step Two (A): Gently bite the end of a Spanish lime so you are only piercing the peel. Then use your finger to remove peel.

OR

Step Two (B): Squeeze the middle of the Spanish lime until it pops open. (Careful the fruit doesn’t pop out and onto the floor or your friend’s shirt)

Step Three: Suck on the fruit to get all the juice out. Do not bite the inner pit.

Step Four: Spit the pit out. Repeat starting at Step One.

WLRN’s youth radio program is a partnership with Urgent INC’s FACE program. You can see more of their work at WLRNYouthRadio.tumblr.com