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Ackee

Ackee Fruits

Ackee Tree

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Ackee - Akee - Achee

Pronunciation: [ah-KEE]

Scientific Name: Blighia Sapida
Family: Sapindaceae
Classification: Fruits

Ackee is the national fruit of Jamaica. Its name is derived from the West African Akye Fufo. The scientific name - Blighia Sapida - is in honour of Captain William Bligh, who brought the fruit from West Africa to Kew in Jamaica in 1793. The Captain was also responsible for taking Jamaican pineapples to Hawaii and South Sea's breadfruit to Jamaica.

A handful of islands grow ackee as an ornamental tree, but only Jamaica looks at it as a tree that bears edible fruit. Ackee grows in bunches on powerful, strong-rooted trees. The trees grow all across Jamaica, particularly in the farming regions of the south central plains in Clarendon and St. Elizabeth. There are two bearing seasons: between January to March and June to August.

The fruit turns bright red on reaching maturity and splits open along the seams with continued exposure to the sun. When open it reveals three large black shiny seeds and bright yellow flesh. Traditionally it is at this time that the ackees are harvested.
The fruit of the Akee is not edible. It is only the fleshy arils around the seeds that are edible. The fruit must only be picked after the fruit has opened naturally, and must be fresh and not overripe.

When boiled, drained and simmered in oil with salted dried cod with your choice of vegetables and hot peppers, it becomes Jamaica's national dish Ackee and Saltfish. Considered as a delicacy by many, cooked ackee has the consistency and look of scrambled eggs. It is enjoyed by many at breakfast or as an entree throughout Jamaica. The purified oil from ackee has high nutritive value.

Never open an ackee pod, because it is poisonous if eaten before it is fully mature. Consumers of the unripe fruit sometimes suffer from 'Jamaican Vomiting Sickness Syndrome' (JVS) allegedly caused by the unusual amino acid components, hypoglycin A and B. Nowadays, there is increased awareness of the necessity for consuming only ripe, opened ackees.

Canned ackees is exported wordwide and is available in West Indian markets.

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