Ackee... healthy and nutritious or toxic and poisonous
New article on Jamaican Tourism about "when to eat Ackee and when not to!" features this picture. nam02.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2...
Ackee, related to Lychee and Longan fruit, was brought from West Africa to Jamaica before 1778 probably on a slave ship! Since then it has become a major feature of Caribbean cuisines. The common name is derived from the West African' Akye fufo'. The term Ackee originated from the Akan language. It is a member of the Sapindaceae or soapberry family. The scientific name, Blighia sapida, honors Captain William Bligh who brought the fruit from Jamaica to the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, England in 1793 and introduced it to science.
Ackee bears a pear-shape, multi-lobed fruit which has waxy red to yellow skin. When the Ackee fruit is ripe, it splits wide open. The edible part is the plump flesh, pale-to-buttery yellow in color, that clings to the lower part of the seed. This portion is called the aril. A shiny black seed sits on top of each aril. Only the aril is edible, and only after the fruit has "yawned open on the tree by itself." The seeds and rind contain high levels of toxins and SHOULD NOT BE EATEN, even when ripe.The seed and husk are always toxic. Ripe arils are boiled, usually in salt water or milk, then fried and eaten.
Ackee is the national fruit of Jamaica. Ackee and saltfish is the national dish. Like tofu, Ackee has a creamy texture and is relatively mild in flavor so does best when paired with strong ingredients like saltfish and peppers in Jamaica’s national dish. When it is paired with such flavors it becomes something worth talking about! But EATER BEWARE, the skin, unripe fruit and seeds of Ackee are highly toxic!
When food is scarce and people eat unripe fruits, there are epidemics of hypoglycemia. Children sometimes eat unripe fruits problems are seen chiefly in pediatric departments. More than one family member may be affected if several people have eaten unripe fruit or if the water in which Ackee fruit has been cooked is re-used in the kitchen. The condition is well known in Jamaica and is sometimes called the "vomiting sickness of Jamaica".
There are also Cluster Figs, Ficus auriculata, in the background of this image. These tropical figs are edible but of poor quality. And, to the left, a spiny red Gac.
Ackee, Akee, Vegetable Brain, Akee Apple or Akee, Blighia sapida
Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, Miami, FL
Fruit and Spice Park, Miami, FL