Jamaica, or Xaymaca (land of wood and water) as the Tainos called it, is richly blessed in that the island produces a wide variety of fruits, ground provision, and vegetables. Some are indigenous to the island and others were brought here with slaves, slavers, and indentured labourers. One thing is sure, you can’t ‘dead fi hungry’ on an island that produces such a vast array of food items. Let’s explore the ackee
Jamaica’s national fruit is the ackee (or ayee/akee), which was brought to the island from West Africa on a slave ship. The ackee is also part of the national dish which is Ackee & Saltfish (codfish) and is also eaten across the Caribbean in a variety of ways. It is important to note that ackee is poisonous if consumed when unripe, so it pays to be careful when purchasing same. Also, the pink fibrous tissue needs to be removed before boiling.
When unripe, the ackee pod goes from green to yellow to red until it opens. Each pod carries three seeds to which the creamy flesh (aril) is attached. Jamaicans consume ackee mainly as breakfast food, but also eat it for lunch and dinner. The buttery/nutty flavour goes well with saltfish, corn pork, sausages, herring and salt mackerel. Ackee is also delicious on its own. Well-seasoned, of course.
Ackee is chockfull of vitamins and nutrients. It is also a great source of fibre (which helps regulate glucose/insulin levels in the blood) and unsaturated fats. This fruit also carries an array of fatty acids, calcium and phosphorous, which help with building strong bones. Ackee is another of those superfruits which enhance immune health and is beneficial to the body in a variety of ways.
The leaves are also good for making tea, that is reputed to be of great benefit for those suffering from flu, asthma and stomach conditions. The bark is also helpful with stomach ailments and the pods can be used to make soap, which is effective in treating skin infections. And just in case flies bother you during the summertime when they are plentiful, you can hang a small branch in your kitchen to keep them away.
Considering all the benefits, ackee anyone?