Did you know that ackee is a fatty fruit and not a vegetable? There have been a lot of debates about which of the categories ackee belongs to. Yes indeed, ackee is usually cooked with vegetables and always treated like one. But it is not. Ackee is a tropical fruit that can be eaten raw or cooked.
You might have seen pictures of this fruit on the internet, or come across instances where it has been mentioned in recipes and cookbooks. Ackee is a tricky fruit, as only the aril is the edible part of the fruit. The other parts of the fruit, like the seed or seed pod, should not be eaten.
What does ackee taste like? Ackee has a taste that can be described as similar to cream cheese with a nutty and butter undertone. The flavor and taste of ackee are very subtle. When it is cooked, ackee gets soft and has a melt-in-your-mouth feel. This fruit is well known for absorbing the flavor and taste of other food items it is being cooked with.
There are two types of ackee, the butter ackee, and cheese ackee. Ackee is infamously described as scrambled eggs but does not taste like it.
The cheese ackee is firmer than the butter ackee and holds up well when cooked. The taste could differ a little also as the butter ackee is much more creamer than the cheese ackee. Now that you know what each variety of ackee tastes like, what benefits does ackee offer to the human body?
Nutritional Benefits of Ackee
Unripe ackee could be dangerous to human health. The only edible part of the ackee is the aril and it grows in the pod. Ackee only becomes safe to eat when the pod opens naturally. When the pods open naturally, the toxic hypoglycin in the fruit would have dissipated from the aril to levels that are safe for humans.
If one were to force these pods open and eat the ackee without waiting for it to ripen, the hypoglycin would remain in the arils and could result in death. Whatever you do, don’t eat unripe ackee.
The oil in ackee is very rich in nutrients. It contains fatty acids like palmitic, oleic, and stearic acids. When consumed moderately, these fatty acids can help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. Ackee is also rich in minerals like sodium, potassium, vitamin C, calcium, phosphorus, and zinc.
Calcium and zinc help to strengthen the bones and prevent bone demineralization and loss. Potassium helps to dilate blood vessels and reduce the risk of damage as blood flows through. It also helps the cardiovascular system, not overwork itself. Ackee also contains iron, which helps the diffusion of oxygen from the blood to the cells in the body that need it. The iron also helps to keep anemia at bay.
Ackee also contains fiber like many other fruits do, this fiber helps facilitate bowel movement, reduce cholesterol levels and lower the risks of swelling or bloating in the colon.
An addition of ackee into your diet could help keep everyday illnesses away, this is because ackee contains vitamin C which is well known for its ability to help improve and boost the immune system.
Culinary Uses of Ackee
Ackee requires a little bit of preparation before you can eat it. It’s not something hectic or time-consuming. All you need to do is remove the fruit from its pod and separate the arils from the black seeds. Then remove the red lining on each section of the aril. All these parts that you have removed have to be discarded as they are not edible.
Ackee can be eaten as it is, ordinarily without any addition. But, in Jamaica where ackee is majorly grown and exported to other parts of the world, their national food uses cooked ackee. The national dish is ackee and salted codfish.
To make this dish, the ackee is gently cooked for up to half an hour, then sauteed with onions, sweet peppers, paprika, tomatoes, and the most important ingredient: scotch bonnet pepper. Then the salt fish is then added to the mix. On the beaches of Jamaica, you could enjoy this and eat ackee in its most acceptable form.
Ackee can be used in several dishes and recipes but for each one that requires cooking, it is important to not overcook the ackee. The Jamaican national food can be accompanied by breadfruit, fried dough, boiled green plantain, or fried plantain. Ackee can be used in desserts, soups, custards, and baked goods.
Where is Ackee Grown? How Do You Procure It?
Ackee is majorly grown in Jamaica. But it is believed that the fruit was brought on a slave ship to the highland. In Jamaica, the fruit is being commercially planted and grown. Over the years, Jamaica’s export of the ackee has increased steadily.
You can’t find fresh ackee in the United States, this is because the FDA placed a ban on them and allows only canned ackee that is thoroughly checked upon entry in the country.
The ban was placed as a result of the danger that unripe ackee can pose to the human body. Ackee is grown in many west African countries with Jamaica being the largest producer. So, if you want to have a taste of ackee in the United States, you would have to try the canned ackee. If you are in search of fresh ackee you might have to take a vacation to Jamaica.
Can Ackee Be Deadly?
Yes, death resulting from eating unripe ackee is possible. Unripe ackee contains hypoglycin which can cause the Jamaican Vomiting sickness that leads to coma and then death. It is rumored that slaves in the region used unripe ackee to kill their masters back when slave trade was still prominent.
Facts You Don’t Know About Ackee
- In 2016, Jamaica’s export of canned ackee to the US was worth $20 million compared to the 2000s when it was just $4.4 million.
- Ackee arrived in Jamaica in the 1700s on a slave ship from Ghana, West Africa. The name ackee is derived from “Akye Fufu” which is the word for ackee in Ghana’s Twi language.
- All the ingredients that constitute the Jamaican national food ackee and saltfish are not native to the country.