Bonjour! Namaste! Hola! Ni hao! Kon’nichiwa! Annyeong! Ciao! Hello, my h-steppers!! Did you miss us? I know I missed you! So, today’s article is all about ackee! Trivia question- what’s Jamaica’s national dish? See Vegan Ackee.
That’s right ackee and saltfish. But I’ve personally tried ackee with another partner food too and trust me, it is divine! Picture me saying that in the candy crush automated voice. But you have your questions and I’ll try to have them answered. Without further ado, let’s jump right in!
What Is Ackee?
The Blighia sapida tree is what we call the ackee tree, but just the binomial or scientific name for it. The plant is a part of the Sapindaceae family, where its leaves are evergreen and its trunk is short; along with a dense crown.
The tree is considered perennial that produces fist-sized fruit pods that contain 3-4 light yellow arils/pulps with each having around black and medium-size seed at the top. The fruit is what we call Blighia sapida or popularly known as ackee.
However, aril/pulp is what we eat when cooked. So, that the seeds are discarded and we consume the pulp AFTER it is cooked. Please, do not eat the raw pulp, it is dangerous at that point. The fruit pods range in color at different levels of maturity, where it transitions from green to red to orange-yellow to reach its ripen form.
Fun fact– Blighia sapida is Jamaica’s national fruit and a part of their national dish. So, you’d be thinking that the tree/fruit is indigenous to the island, right? No! The plant was carried from West Africa to the island then was discovered by Captain William Bligh.
He then transported and transplanted the plant from Jamaica to the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, England in the 18th century (1793). Where the English common name-ackee, is derived from the West African akan akye fufo.
When Is Ackee Ripe?
The fruit pod’s exocarp has a smooth texture and undergoes a transition of colors (from green which is unripe to red- almost mature and finally to orange-yellow- matured/ripe) to reach its full level of maturity.
Another key indicator to look for is that when the fruit is matured, the fruit pod opens. Revealing the 3-4 pale yellow arils/pulps with black medium-sized glossy seeds shooting from the pulp. What you will find too, are the red-pink membranes attached to the pale/light yellow arils.
How to prepare ackee for consumption
- Remove the pale arils from the fruit pods that were freshly picked.
- Place the pulps/arils into a clean bowl. Then discard the fruit pods.
- Use a knife to slit a V shape into the area where the seed is, then break out the seed. Now use the knife to pull out the red-pink membranes we spoke of earlier. Once the seed and membrane are out, discard them and put the freshly clean pulp into a new bowl. The seed and the membrane should never be consumed!
- Repeat step three for all of the pulps/arils.
- Wash the freshly cleaned pale yellow arils.
- If you are ready to use them for cooking then go ahead and do so! One option is to boil it because remember we recommend not to eat it raw.
- If you aren’t ready for them to be cooked then just store them in a resealable zipper bag and place them in the freezer.
Ackee Recipes To Prepare
Season and storage
January to March and June to August are the most popular times you can get a good harvest from ackee or seen them plenty at your local farmer’s market.
Preboiled or raw, you should store it in an air-tight container or a resealable zipper bag in the freezer. This way it lasts longer and keeps fresh for over a month.
Where can I purchase/buy ackee?
In the Caribbean and other places that it is grown quite popularly, you will find that it is more accessible at their local farmer’s market than others. However, here in the USA, it is grown in south Florida or you can also find the Canned Ackee version at local stores or supermarkets.
Health Profile for Ackee
Ackee contains calcium, phosphorous, sodium, potassium, fiber, carbohydrates, protein, fat, Vitamin B1(Thiamine), Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) and Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid), zinc, and iron. Please be advised that the aforementioned list is subjected to addition, as all the substances present are not listed. What is listed represents the more predominant substances/nutrients.
Top 3 Amazing Health Benefits of Ackee
Boosts the immune system
Sore throats, runny nose, dry coughs, colds, and flu are terrible right? Well, a good immune system helps your body to fight against the microorganisms that cause these nuisances. A strong immune system also combats against deadly diseases and viruses that like to act as cannonballs trying to sink the ship.
Let’s put it as a war tactic, the enemies are the viruses and other microorganisms. If the first line of defense who are your vanguards (this is usually the first line of defense for an army; in this instance the innate immune system e.g., the skin) doesn’t work your body (the general) will send out other soldiers to back them up.
These follow-up soldiers are like the middle guards that are still a part of the innate immune system that are unspecific called phagocytes. Their job is to detect any pathogenic invaders and quickly assassinate them.
If there are too many enemies infiltrating the body then the last line of defense receives the message from dendritic cells then takes up their sword. In battle, they are called the rearguards but in biology, we know them to be from the adaptive immune system called lymphocytes- B cells and T cells.
The nutrients in ackee help to produce a lot of B cells (to fight against antigens by procreating antibodies) and T cells-which there are a plethora of them for each memorized and specific antigen. If there aren’t any strong forces at each level then you’d be sick quite often or even worse, susceptible to life-threatening diseases and viruses.
Can you imagine getting sick and never getting better? That’s just awful! So, a healthy and strong immune system is very vital to your body. Read More.
Ackee contains a good source of iron-main contributor for producing hemoglobin- which is very important for preventing anemia (lack of red blood cells that carries oxygen in the blood).
It also assists in regulating body temperature, helps to improve the immune system, aids in brain function for better focus, helps in gastrointestinal processes, and helps in producing energy.
- 3. Aids Digestion
Ackee contains high amounts of fiber where the resultant makes it a great digestive aid. But how? Dietary fiber helps to eradicate constipation, which in return helps to prevent bloating, constipation, cramping, loose stool, diarrhea, gastrointestinal symptoms, and inflammation of the colon (which could lead to colorectal cancer- cancer that occurs in the colon or rectum).
Dietary fiber and phosphorus found in ackee help to alleviate the stated problems above, which allows for an effective and properly functioning digestive system. In addition, dietary fiber also helps to lower cholesterol along with fatty acids like stearic, linoleic, and palmitic acids and may improve heart health! Amazing right?
Other health benefits:
- May regulate blood sugar levels – due to carbohydrates and other nutrients.
- Helps blood circulation- due to high contents of potassium.
- Antioxidant properties
- Builds bones, muscles, and teeth
- Promotes good heart health
- Electrolyte balancer
- Improves skin health (the leaves and bark are used)
Side Effects Of Ackee
Amazing benefits but, ackee can be dangerous because of the hypoglycin A and B toxins present. These toxins can stimulate/cause a series of severe symptoms including vomiting, low blood sugar, weakness, convulsions, liver damage, coma, or death.
The unripe fruit of ackee is UNSAFE to eat, even if it has been cooked. However, the ripe ackee can be consumed raw but we DO NOT recommend you eat it. So, avoid eating it raw, unripe as well as the seeds and membranes!
Many people use ackee/ankye/achee/akee/ackee apple/Jamaican ackee or ayee for culinary purposes simultaneously trying new ideas in the kitchen with this fruit. Guess what? We have some amazing recipes that you can try! So, hop on over to that page and explore in your own kitchen too! Until next time my lovely h-steppers au revoir and bon appétit!
Other Exotic Fruits
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