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ackee

 

Synonyms: akee, vegetable brain

botanical name: Blighia sapida


Ackee

 

The ackee is a member of the soapberry family and originated in West Africa, from where it was brought to the Caribbean at the end of the 18th century. It was cultivated on many of the West-Indian islands. Today it is grown chiefly in parts of West Africa and the West Indies, especially in Jamaica, where it is part of the national cuisine.

 

Availability

 

The fresh ackee is available in Jamaica all year round. Some of the trees bloom and bear fruit continuously. In the Bahamas, however, there are two harvest periods, one from February to April and one from July to October. In Germany, ackee fruit can be found in well-assorted delicatessen shops as a preserve.

 

Appearance, taste, characteristics

 

The evergreen tree reaches a height of about 12 m and has leaves 10-15 cm long and fragrant green-white blossoms. It prefers a tropical or subtropical climate and grows on sandy soil.

The fruits look very peculiar. Inside there are three shiny black seeds, all of which are covered with a whitish aril (pulp). When the ackee fruit is ripe it changes from yellow to yellow-red and splits open. The seeds appear and give the impression that three eyes are looking at one.

 

Only when it is fully ripe is the pulp edible. Unripe or overripe ackees are toxic, as are the seeds.

 

Ingredients

 

Ackee pulp is similar to that of avocados: it is very fatty but contains practically no carbohydrates. It can contribute in considerable amounts to the supply of vitamin C and potassium. Other ingredients are found in rather negligible concentrations. This applies also to preserved ackees; they supply hardly any vitamins and minerals.

 

Owing to their large amount of fat, ackees become rancid easily.

100 g contain:

 

 

Ackee, fresh

Ackee, preserved, drained

Energy (kcal)

217

2261

Water (g)

67

61

Protein (g)

5

4.1

Fat (g)

20

16

Carbohydrates (g)

4.6

161

Fibre (g)

2

1.8

Vitamin C (mg)

26

5.92

Vitamin B1 (mg)

0.1

0.062

Vitamin B2 (mg)

0.1

0.062

Niacin (NE) (mg)

2.2

1.32

Potassium (mg)

380

2203

Magnesium (mg)

18

16

Phosphorus (mg)

16

14

Iron (mg)

2.7

2

Note: As this is a natural product, and as the information is taken from various sources and therefore from different analyses, there may be fluctuations in the nutritional facts. The minerals in particular may fluctuate, since the plant takes these from the soil, the composition of which itself can vary. Its mineral content is influenced, for instance, by fertilization. The footnotes are explained here.

 

Harmful substances

 

Unripe or overripe seed coverings and the seeds themselves contain the toxic peptide hypoglycine A. It can provoke acute and repeated vomiting and can lead to hypoglycaemia, light-headedness and drowsiness, as well as to cramps and coma, and at the worst to death.

 

Form of consumption, use, processing, practical tips for preparation

 

The pulp can be eaten both raw and cooked. Frequently, it is used as soup ingredient, fried in butter or deep-fried. When cooked, the texture of ackee resembles that of scrambled egg.

In Jamaica, ackee is traditionally prepared with salted meat, onions and tomatoes. The meat is soaked overnight, to make it less salty. Then it is fried with the tomatoes and the onions and served with cooked and mildly flavoured ackees.

 

Miscellaneous

 

The wood of the ackee tree is used in Jamaica for carving. The inner wood is reddish-brown and particularly hard. It is also sturdy and immune to termites.

 

In West Africa the still-green fruit is used for washing clothes, because in water it produces suds. In addition, the oily seeds and the pulp containing potassium salt are burned and the ashes are then used to make soap.

 

In Cuba the extract from the blossoms is popular as a perfume.

 

 

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