What is a Mamoncillo?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A mamoncillo is a tropical fruit filled with a creamy, tangy pulp which is often enjoyed directly out of hand, although it can also be used in desserts like fruit sorbets. This fruit is most commonly available in markets in South America, where the trees grows as a native, although it can be found in Latin American markets in other regions of the world. In some areas, the mamoncillo tree is grown as an ornamental; gardeners and homeowners are not always aware that the clusters of green fruit are perfectly edible.

Mamoncillo may readily be found in markets in South America.
Mamoncillo may readily be found in markets in South America.

This fruit goes by a number of aliases, including Spanish lime, chenet, ginep, quenepa, akee, limoncillo, ginnip, and mamon. Despite the references to limes and lemons, the mamoncillo is not a citrus fruit and it is not a close relative of the citrus family; instead, it comes from the Melicoccus bijugatus tree, in the soapberry family, making it a relative of fruits like lychees and longans. The plethora of nicknames can get confusing, especially since some of them are offensive in various languages; you may want to ask a local what the name of a plant is so that you do not cause offense by accident.

The trees have silvery gray bark, simple bright green leaves, and sprays of aromatic off-white flowers. The flowers can pollinate each other or the flowers on other trees, allowing the trees to develop clusters of small green drupes. The drupes are covered with a thin skin, which must be cracked to get at the fleshy pulp inside; the pulp conceals a large seed, which is also edible, although the seeds are usually toasted before consumption.

The traditional way to eat a mamoncillo is out of hand. The consumer cracks the skin with his or her teeth and then sucks out the pulp inside, being careful to avoid the big seed, which is usually spat out. Mamoncillos can also be pulped to make desserts and drinks, in which case the pulp is sieved to separate the seeds for roasting. The plant has several other uses as well; the fruit can be used to produce a dye, and the wood is useful for cabinetry.

This fruit is typically cultivated through cuttings, to ensure that young trees retain the positive traits of their parent trees. As a tropical fruit, it does best in USDA Zone 10, in a moist environment with plenty of fertilizer. It can also be grown in a greenhouse, along with other tropical fruits, although you will need a tall ceiling clearance to grow mamoncillo since the fruit trees get quite tall.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


@healthy4life – It's true that there isn't much flesh to eat. You have to suck it out, so you don't get that satisfaction of biting into the creamy pulp.

If you get a good, ripe one, it will taste sweet and good. However, if you get one that isn't quite ripe enough yet, it will taste more like a lemon.

I prefer the carambolo. It tastes like a cross between a grapefruit and a mango. The flesh is very watery and a lot like that of an orange.


I have heard people say that mamoncillos do not taste very good. The main complaint was that there is more seed than pulp.

I have always wanted to try one, mostly because people say that the texture resembles that of a mango. I love the way that a mango almost melts in my mouth.

Has anyone here tried a mamoncillo? Are they good, or will I gag when I bite into one?


@giddion – My mother-in-law lives in Ft. Myers, Florida, and she has a mamoncillo tree on her property that has done well. I believe that city is considered part of the subtropics. However, she is still a good bit further south than you are.

I know that these trees do really well in Key West and Miami, but those are at the far end of Florida. You might try contacting your local extension service. They could tell you if planting a mamoncillo would be worth your effort.


Can you grow a mamoncillo tree in subtropical regions? I live in Florida, and it stays pretty warm and humid here year round, though it's technically not a tropical region.

I love exotic fruit trees, especially the kind that bear fruit you can eat. I would love to grow something out of the ordinary in my own back yard. I live in the Florida Panhandle. Is that too far north?

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