In parts of Brazil and in Porto Rico the genipa is a popular fruit. Elsewhere it is of little importance. Outside of its native area, which is considered to be northeastern South America and the West Indies, it is indeed scarcely known.
When well grown the tree is stately and handsome in appearance. It reaches a height of 60 feet or more, and has a straight, slender trunk branching 10 or 15 feet above the ground. The leaves are oblong-obovate in form, entire or dentate, dark green in color, and about a foot long. The flowers, which in Brazil are produced in November, are small, and light yellow in color. The fruits are the size of an orange, broadly oval to spherical in form, and russet-brown. After being picked they are not ready to be eaten until they have softened and are bordering on decay. Beneath the membranous skin is a thin layer of granular flesh, and within this a mass of soft brownish pulp in which numerous small compressed seeds are embedded. The flavor is characteristic and very pronounced; it may be likened to that of dried apples, but is stronger, and the aroma is more penetrating.
The genipa, known in Brazil as genipapo, in Porto Rico as jagua, and in the British West Indies as genipap and marmalade-box, is eaten fresh, and used to prepare an alcoholic beverage known as licor de genipapo. A refreshing drink known as genipapada is also made from it, and, when green it furnishes a dye used by some of the Brazilian Indians in tattooing.
In its climatic requirements the tree is tropical. It is not known to have been grown in California or Florida, although it might succeed in the southern part of the latter state. It prefers a humid atmosphere and a deep rich loamy soil containing plenty of moisture. Propagation is usually by seeds, which are easily germinated. P. J. Wester, who has experimented with the tree in the Philippines, finds that it can be shield-budded in the same manner as the avocado. He says: "Use mature, bluish-green, smooth, non-petioled budwood; cut the buds about an inch and a half long; age of stock at point of insertion of bud unimportant." By utilizing this method of propagation it will be possible to perpetuate choice varieties which originate as chance seedlings.