This is another element of Jamaica that I would love to share. I absolutely love this fruit and its dishes.
The Ackee is the national fruit of Jamaica. Its name is derived from the West African Akye fufo. It is widely consumed in Jamaica, and Jamaicans are among the only people who eat it. The first evidence of ackee growing in Jamaica was found in the 1700s. The ackee tree grows eight to fifteen metres tall. It flowers biannually, occasionally more often. The most poular Jamaican dish is known as Ackee and Saltfish (Salted Codfish), but ackee is also combined with callaloo and corned pork, mackerel, bacon or beef for other dishes. Ackee is such a universal dish, it is even eaten for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.The fruit of the ackee is not edible in its entirety, only the inner, fleshy yellow parts are consumed. The red outer shells are discarded. The presence of of hypoglycine A in the immature and over-mature fruit is found in ackee and this makes it poisonous at certain stages in its development, this is why Jamaicans believe that ackee must open naturally to avoid the toxicity. It MUST be cooked fully before consumption.
How I Do Ackee
I have two ackee trees in my backyard, so my family and I enjoy ackee whenever the tree blooms, without having to buy any. Ackee trees are very common in Jamaica. After Christmas, the leftover ham from Christmas dinner was always the central meat in most of what we ate until it was all done. One year, my mother combined ackee with ham, and it has been a favourite among my family ever since. Since I’m all about experimenting, I decided to play with ackee and chicken. I sauteed some chicken breast, along with other seasonings such as sweet peppers (green, yellow, or red), onions, and tomatoes, and behold! Ackee and chicken! I even used leftover jerk chicken from Friday night once to make a Saturday evening dinner. The flavour from the jerk chicken was just absorbed by the ackee and gave it exquisite taste. I was quite impressed with myself 🙂
Ackee is such a flexible delicacy, and us Jamaicans are very unique with the myriad of ways we consume it. You can eat it with just about any meat, or any starch. For a quick breakfast or lunch I like to mush the ackee and spread it on two slices of toast, or spread it on crackers. It is more often served with fried dumplings for breakfast, and boiled dumplings for lunch/dinner. It is also served with starches such as Yams, Potatoes, Dasheen and Pumpkin.
My aunt hails from rural Manchester, and another way I enjoy ackee is in her one-pot rice. It is an amazing blend of rice, seasonings, ackee, and any meat of choice, usually saltfish pieces or ham. It incorporates all the protein and starch you need and it was so good that my younger sister couldn’t resist sharing it on Instagram. There is no limit on the range of ingredients and seasonings you can include in your one pot. It’s all about being creative and unique with the dishes you make.
If anyone is planning a visit to Jamaica, be sure to be on the lookout for the ackee. You will enjoy it thoroughly!
Peace and Love Everyone!