St. Martin has some delicious native fruit trees, but many favorites were brought from other places. The Mango and Pomme Surette come from Asia originally and were brought during the colonial period. Other fruits were probably brought by Amerindian people during prehistoric times, like the Papaya and Kinnip. All of these trees have been part of the local landscape for generations, and their fruit is part of local culture and cuisine.
Mango (Mangifera indica) is perhaps the most popular fruit on St. Martin and in the Caribbean. The tree is originally from South Asia. There are many varieties. The “Julie” is one that is particularly popular on St. Martin. Usually mango trees produce a tremendous amount of fruit in early summer. Hurricanes or drought can disrupt this, causing trees to bear fruit at other times or not at all.
Papaya (Carica papaya) is grown all over St. Martin. The name “papaya” comes from the Arawak language. The Spanish adopted the word from the Amerindians they met in the Caribbean. Studies show the plant itself is native to Mexico, and was spread by Amerindian peoples during prehistoric times. Today, many enjoy its colorful fruit. Papaya fruit, seeds, leaves and roots are also used in bush medicine, to aid digestion and get rid of worms.
The Kinnip (Melicoccus bijugatus) is a popular fruit on St. Martin. When it’s in season, kids sell clusters of these small green fruits on the roadside. Beneath the skin of the kinnip is a thin layer of sweet pulp and a large seed. The kinnip tree is native to South America, and was probably brought to the Caribbean by Amerindians during prehistoric times.
The Jujube (Ziziphus mauritiana) has many names, but on St. Martin it is almost always called Pomme Surette, even by English speakers. It is originally from Asia, but has been introduced to many tropical areas. It was probably brought here for its fruit, but its leaves are also used to feed goats and other animals. It sends down deep roots quickly, helping it survive dry conditions.