At the Market: Quenepas
These bulbous, woodsy fruits called quenepas might catch your eye as you pass the fruit stand at the south end of Astor Place. Native to Central and South America, they're also called mamoncillo or Spanish lime. Although they do look like tiny limes, they're actually in the Sapindaceae family, which also includes lychee and ackee.
The family resemblance to lychee is immediately obvious when you pop open the taut, leathery skin, baring the slithery, peach-colored fruit, which harbors a large pit inside. But unlike lychee, the quenepas fruit isn't so much sweet and refreshing as, well, a textural sensation. The flavor is mildly sugary, with a tacky, tannin-like aftertaste, but it's the mucus-like texture that's memorable. Two Fork in the Road employees sucked pensively on them before deciding that they were just too goopy (yet weirdly resilient) for us--plus, to get the flesh off the pit, you'd have to have vacuum-cleaner-like mouth power. Is it the chewing tobacco of fruits, we wondered, and you're just meant to tuck it into your cheek?
Perhaps we have a bad batch, because people all over Latin America do manage to suck the fruit off the pit and enjoy it. Better, you can soak them in rum and sugar to make a cocktail. In any case, they're pretty. We decided ours would make a beautiful centerpiece.