Ackee fruit

Ackee fruit and food dishes cooked with it are a specialty of Jamaica. The fruit is the country’s national fruit. How is it cooked? Where to purchase it in the USA and how to store it? Is it healthy?

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Ackee fruit

Ackee fruit is a fruit but is cooked like a vegetable. This national fruit of Jamaica is a perennial crop and available throughout the year. It grows on tropical evergreen trees and these trees are most abundant in Jamaica. It is also called ackee apple.

The fruits are inside pods. When the fruits ripen the pods get a bright red color. These pods split open easily and one can see the edible fruit inside. It also opens up naturally. The Jamaicans call this process as yawning or smiling of the fruit.

Ackee fruit
The Ackee fruit (Source: Encyclopedia Britannica)

Once open, there would be few large and glossy black-colored seeds inside. Underneath these seeds are cream colored fleshy arils. These are what are consumed.

Before using, one needs to remove the pod, the seeds and use only the flesh. Wash this well under running water. Drain it well and then use it in cooking.

Cooking method

One can make the Jamaican delicacy, ackee and saltfish with it. First boil the fleshy part of ackee in water for half an hour. Water is drained out and the fleshy part is added to onions, tomatoes, Scotch bonnetĀ peppers, sweet peppers, allspice, and sauteed. Later saltfish is added. Ackee is said to be cooked when it changes color to bright yellow.

Along with saltfish, breadfruit, hard dough bread, dumplings, plantain that is fried or green bananas that are boiled are served. One can have it with rice and peas or with white rice.

Ackee fruit
The Ackee fruit (Source: The Spruce Eats)

One can add it to soups and mix it with desserts such as custard or cakes. People who see the cooked fruit the first time say that it resembles scrambled eggs. It is delicate and creamy in texture like eggs. But taste wise, it has a nutty flavor with some bitterness.

Availability in the USA and safety

This fruit is available fresh, frozen and canned in Jamaica. The nation exports the products worldwide. But you might find it difficult to grab the fruit in the USA. This is because it is illegal to sell or purchase this fruit in the USA. The government has banned it’s import. Hence no fresh ackee fruits are sold there. Even canned and frozen ackee is hard to get in the USA. Only after FDA inspects the batch and approves it’s sale in the USA, it is green listed and sold. But the supply is quite less.

The reason for this ban is that unripe ackee including the unripe pods and seeds contain hypoglycin. This is an unnatural amino acid that remains intact even after canning. This causes Jamaican vomiting sickness. But this risk is not noticed with ripe pods, seeds or fruit.

Ackee fruit
Ackee and saltfish (Source: Serious eats)

Also, readĀ What is a superfood? Why did European Union ban the use of this term?

One can keep canned ackee for a long time. But fresh fruit has a shorter shelf life. When frozen, it’s shelf life increases. Prepared food dish with this fruit will remain for three or four days in refrigerator.