Ackee – Jamaica’s National Fruit

Ackee is the national fruit of Jamaica. Ackee is an unusual fruit which is eaten as a vegetable. Prepared ackee looks like scrambled eggs, and has its own delicate flavour.

For many years Jamaica was the only country where the fruit was grown on a large scale and widely recognised as an edible food crop. The tree also grows in other West Indian Islands, in Central America, and in Southern Florida.

The fruit was first introduced to the Caribbean during the 18th Century. Its is originally from West Africa known as Akye Fufo, Ankye, or lshin, and was brought to the Botanical gardens in Jamaica in 1793 by Captain William Bligh. The plant was given its botanical name ‘Blighia sapida’ in honour of Bligh (of the famous ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’ episode), who was also responsible for transporting and introducing pineapples and breadfruit to other parts of the Caribbean and the South sea islands.

Ackee trees are now found across Jamaica but are mostly produced in Clarendon and St Elizabeth. There are two bearing seasons: between January to March and June to August.

The Ackee is a tropical evergreen tree that grows about 30 feet tall, with leathery leaves and fragrant white flowers. The fruit grows in clusters and is pear shaped, bright red to yellow-orange, and when ripe, splits open to reveal three large, shiny black seeds, surrounded by soft, creamy or spongy, white to yellow flesh.

Ackee has made the top 10 lists of most Dangerous food over the years. The connection between Ackee poisoning and ‘Jamaican vomiting sickness’ was first noted in 1875 and documented in 1904. The fruit must only be picked after the fruit has opened naturally, and must be fresh and not overripe. The fruit of the Akee is not edible, only the fleshy arils around the seeds.

Ackee 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. It can also be eaten either at breakfast or as an entrée. The purified oil from ackee has high nutritive value. Canned ackee is exported around the world, including now the USA after an almost 30 year ban. It is widely available in the UK in West Indian markets and shops.

Popular Ackee Brands include Dunns River, Grace Foods and Tropical Sun.

Click here for the CFW 2014 Saltfish & Ackee Recipe