That’s right folks, it’s guinep season! And the vendors are out in their numbers selling this most sought-after yummy summer fruit once again. And in many cases you have the option of tasting the fruit before purchasing. Hence the phrase “taase an buy” (English translation: “taste and buy” or “taste then purchase” or “taste the fruit and, if you like it, then you can purchase”).
On Saturday, August 11, I posted a couple of photos on Jamaican Echoes’ Facebook page of my first guinep purchase for the season. I like to purchase the fruits during the middle of the season – the season starts in July and ends around September – to ensure I’m getting ripe guineps. Who likes eating young or sour guineps? Definitely not these folks in this Daily Gleaner “Roving with Lalah” piece: “Sour Guineps in Linstead.”
The guinep tree (Meliococcus bijugatus) is common across Jamaica. The tree can grow up to 20m high, with a thick trunk and smooth grey bark.
The tree bears small, round, green-skinned fruits that grow in clusters like grapefruits (much smaller of course!) or like grapes.
Are guineps native to Jamaica?
Yes they are. It was once thought that the tree was brought to Jamaica from Suriname in 1750; however, it was long cultivated by the Tainos in their gardens. Olive Senior (2003, pg. 225) notes that the guinep tree was the Tainos’ most sacred tree, which yielded black body paint used for ritual purposes.
Three interesting facts about guineps
Be careful when eating guineps though: they stain! The colourless juice can stain your clothes once it makes contact. Hence, why parents often warn children not to eat guineps in their “good clothes.”
The Arawakan word for guinep is “genipa” and it is also referred to as “ginep” in English.
Guinep is related to ackee, Jamaica’s national fruit and one-half of Jamaica’s national dish, ackee and saltfish. The guinep is called ackee in Barbados.
$50 a bungle!
Have you had your bunch of guineps as yet? Go ahead and buy it: $50 a bungle! Guinep is now available across Jamaica in the food markets and sold by roadside vendors everywhere.
Until next time…
Senior, Olive (2003), Encyclopedia of Jamaican Heritage. St. Andrew: Twin Guinep Publishers, Ltd.