Cameron calls the fruit guy on the corner of Spring and Sixth Avenue our porno fruit guy. He has signs that have adjectives on them like “extra big size cherries”, “beautiful nectarines”, “sweet beautiful pineapple” and my favorite, “all kind sweet apple”.
I’ve bought cherries and bananas from him before. Today I walked by and saw these green little things. I asked him what they were and he told me they were quenepas and that they are “sweet and sawah.” (I love this guy!) This Puerto Rican girl sitting on a stoop came up to tell me they are from Puerto Rico and showed me how to eat them: you take a small bite to crack the leathery green skin, suck the juice, peel off completely and pop the plum in your mouth. You basically suck it until it’s dry. They are a little sweet and a little tart at the same time. After a few of them, you get a cotton-feel in your mouth because of the fuzzy texture of the fruit’s flesh.
They’re known in the Caribbean as mamoncillo, or mamon, which is also an obscene word. (You’re going to have to email me to find out what it means.) This Jamaican girl from work calls them ginep. She said they grow all-year round in Jamaica although this is the first time I’ve seen them in New York City. According to Caribbean folk wisdom, girls learn the art of kissing by eating the sweet flesh of this fruit. (More than just kissing, I bet.) In Ecuador, my friend Vanessa told me, you eat them with salt.
I’ve saved some of the seeds to dry them and I’ll be roasting them over the weekend. Tune in next week for the results!
So I put the dried seeds on a baking sheet and roasted them while I read The Times on Sunday morning. I remembered to take them out as soon as my mother asked about the funny smell in the kitchen. Thankfully, I didn’t burn them completely. When they were cool enough to handle, I cracked a few using a nutcracker. The quenepa seed meat was surprisingly tender, just like chestnuts. They were a pretty good snack considering they were spat out by co-workers. Now I feel like I have to tell the fruit guy that the little fruits make good tender, nuts.