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Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Ackee - 'Blighia Sapida' - fam: Sapindaceae

The Ackee, also known as Achee, Ackee Apple or Akee, Blighia sapida, is a member of the Sapindaceae (Soapberry) family, as are the Lychee, and the Longan. It is native to tropical West Africa in Cameroon, Gabon, São Tomé and Príncipe, Benin, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo.

The scientific name honours Captain William Bligh who took the fruit from Jamaica to the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, England in 1793, and introduced it to science. The common name is derived from the West African Akan akye fufo.

The fruit was imported to Jamaica from West Africa, before 1778. Since then it has become a major feature of various Caribbean cuisines, and is also cultivated in tropical, and subtropical areas, elsewhere around the world. 1

The fruit turns red on reaching maturity, and splits open, with continued exposure to the sun. Traditionally, it is at this time that the Ackees are harvested, and the edible portion, the arilli, are removed, and cleaned, in preparation for cooking. This delicacy is enjoyed by many at breakfast or as an entree. The canned product is exported to ethnic markets worldwide, and continues to be enjoyed by both visitors to the island, and Jamaicans residing overseas.

NOTE: Consumers of the unripe fruit sometimes suffer from 'Jamaican vomiting sickness syndrome' (JVS), allegedly caused by the unusual amino acid components, hypoglycin A and B. In this regard it is recognised that the nutritional status of the consumer is important, since diagnosed patients generally show manifestations of chronic malnutrition and vitamin deficiency.

Although JVS has resulted in some fatalities in the past with symptoms including vomiting and severe hypoglcaemia, nowadays such incidences are rare with the increased awareness of the necessity for consuming only ripe, opened Ackees.

REFERENCE: - Wikipedia - Ackee 1.


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