Trying new food is fun. Or at least it should be and it is one of the most fun parts of travelling – getting to try local goodies that are only available far away from home. Ackee fruit is awesome and I would love to lift it up into the realm of one of my favourite foods, but it grows a little too far away for that.
Ripe, boiled and then pan-fried ackee is like the perfect mix of scrambled eggs meets firm avocado for texture. Forget tofu scramble – ackee fruit sauteed with some onions is the best scrambled egg replacement ever.
What Is Ackee Fruit?
This is ackee:
It grows on trees and as it ripens turns from green to red, and then splits open revealing its ripeness inside. The Ackee, also called Vegetable Brain, Achee, or Akee Apple, is a member of the Sapindaceae (soapberry family). Why do you care about the genus of this fruit? Well, it is the same family as lychee, maple and also the fruit that bears the laundry detergent the Soap Nuts! The fruit is native to tropical West Africa in Cameroon, Gabon, São Tomé and Príncipe, Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo.
You must cook ackee!
The fruit of the ackee is not edible in its entirety. You have to wait for the pods to ripen and bust open. Then you can easily extract the fleshy yellow bits.
The edible yellow bits are called the arils – and must be boiled for 30 minutes and then we dump out that water. I am all over the raw food love but this one has to be cooked. Raw ackees and the inner red tissue of the ripe ackee arils contain potent phytochemicals that, if consumed raw, can produce all sorts of barfyness and fatal blood sugar drops- a condition known as Jamaican vomiting sickness.
Though it may be poisonous when improperly prepared, cook it and you’ll get the goodness. Ackee fruit has high nutritional value and is rich in essential fatty acids, vitamin A, zinc and protein.
Now as with all whole foods, there are some really fantastic medicinal uses of ackee. Traditional Jamaican treatments using ackee fruit include:
- Seed extracts are used in the treatment of parasites.
- The ripe Jamaican ackee fruit is consumed to lower fever and to control dysentery.
- A poultice of crushed ackee leaves is applied to the forehead to alleviate headaches.
- The skin of the fruit can be used to heal ulcers.
ackee and salt fish
Ackee and salt fish is a Jamaican staple for breakfast or brunch. Neither ackee nor salt fish are native ingredients in Jamaica; they were brought over in 1700 as part of the slave trade. Ackee fruit trees flourished there, due to its tropical climate. Ackee and salt fish has a long history – and is now considered one of Jamaica’s national dishes.
Incidentally, I did see that ackee can be available in cans over on this side far away from the Caribbean Sea. I am not a fan of canned food, and can’t guarantee how it might taste out of a can, but if you are really curious, I’ll let it slide.
Bye, bye scrambled eggs, hello ackee and salt fish. If ever in Jamaica or other places where you see ackee in the market – give this a try.Print