What is Ackee?
The ackee fruit, scientific name Blighia sapida, which grow on the tree’s branches in clusters have a red skin and when the fruit is opened, it exposes three big black seeds. The only part of the fruit that is edible are the fleshy, yellow portions attached to each seed. The remainder of the fruit contains harmful toxins which can cause severe side effects that can even prove fatal.
The outside flesh is mixed of yellow and red. When ripe, the color will turn into bright red, and the seams split open exposing the seeds and cream-colored pulp. The ackee fruit is considered safe to eat when it’s ripe and the seams open itself naturally; but the unripe fruit is very poisonous.
History Of Ackee
Ackee and saltfish is a traditional Jamaican dish. It is the Jamaican National Dish. The ackee fruit was imported to The Caribbean from Ghana before 1725, as Ackee or Aki is another name for the Akan tribe, Akyem. It is also known as Blighia sapida. 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. Because parts of the fruit are toxic, there are shipping restrictions when being imported to countries such as the United States.
To prepare the dish, salt cod (salt fish should be soaked overnight to eliminate most of the salt) is sautéed with boiled ackee, onions, Scotch Bonnet peppers (optional), tomatoes, and spices, such as black pepper and pimiento. It can be garnished with bacon and tomatoes, and is usually served as breakfast or dinner alongside breadfruit, hard dough bread, dumplings, fried plantain, or boiled green bananas.
Ackee and saltfish can also be eaten with rice and peas or plain white rice. When seasonings (onion, escallion, thyme, garlic) and saltfish are combined with plain rice it is often called seasoned rice which is a one pot meal that is usually eaten on Fridays as an inexpensive meal for dinner.
How to use fruit from ackee tree
This fruit can be used in different ways both for consumption and for other uses. It can be used in the following ways;
- It can be picked when ripe and served on table with food.
- The fruit can be boiled with salt and sea food such as cod fish with oil and served as a complete meal.
- The fleshy inner part can be smashed to make pudding.
- The skin of the fruit is a natural soap for cleaning clothes.
Nutrition Value of Ackee
Amount per 100g
- Calories 151
- Carbohydrates 0.8 g
- Fat 15.2 g – 25.33 % RDA
- Total dietary fiber 2.7 g – 10.8% RDA
- Zinc 1 mg
- Sodium 240 mg – 16% RDA
- Potassium 270 mg – 5.74 % RDA
- Calcium 83 mg – 8.3 % RDA
- Iron 5 mg – 27.77 % RDA
- Phosphorus 98 mg – 9.8 % RDA
- Niacin (vit B3) 3.9 mg
- Thiamin (vit B1) 0.03 mg
- Riboflavin (vit B2) 0.07 mg
Boosts Protein Power
One of the key ingredients in a healthy diet is protein, and getting it from a delicious fruit like ackee is even smarter! Protein is essentially the building block of cells, muscle tissue, and other important aspects of our body that needs to be continually replenished. Ackee isn’t always praised for its high protein content, but it is unusually high for a fruit.
Amazing Health Benefits of Ackee
The Pan American Health Organization, PAHO, says that the ackee is a good source of stearic, linoleic, and palmitic acids. These fatty acids make up 55 percent of the total fatty acids in the ackee and provide a readily available source of fatty acids in the traditional Jamaican diet. It has no saturated fat or cholesterol. A 3.5 oz. serving of ackee weighs 100 g and has 151 calories, with 9.5 g of carbohydrates and a protein content that ranges from 2.9 g to 8.9 g, according to the University of Florida. The main vitamin in ackee is niacin, ranging from 1.1 g to 3.9 mg. Ackee has 30 mg of vitamin C and trace amounts of folacin, riboflavin and thiamine. It contains 270 mg of potassium, 98 mg of phosphorus, 35 to 83 mg of calcium and up to 5 mg of iron. It has 1 mg of zinc along with 240 mg of sodium.
1. Aids in Digestion
Ackee is rich in dietary fiber helps to bulk up stool, as well as eliminate constipation, by inducing peristaltic motion in the gut. This helps move food along, preventing bloating, cramping, constipation, and other inflammation of the colon, which can lead to even more serious issues, such as colorectal cancer.
2. Regulates Blood Pressure
Ackee is rich in potassium, high potassium level in the blood will dilate blood vessels, making it easier for the heart to pump blood through the body. When the heart doesn’t need extra pressure to pump blood, the arterial blood pressure will be lower. Chronic hypertension is known to make damage to blood vessel. It is one of the risk factor of atherosclerosis too, which can lead to heart attack and stroke.
Nutrition Health Benefits of Ackee
3. Regulates Blood Sugar
Ackee is rich in complex, energy-producing carbs, which can help to regulate the sugar levels in your body. By preventing the dips and spike in glucose levels that you get from simple sugars, ackee is able to help fend off Type II diabetes. The high fiber content in ackee is also a great way to regulate glucose and insulin levels in the blood.
4. Strengthens Bones
Ackee fruit contains plenty of Calcium, Phosphorus and Zinc which are needed to avoid bone demineralization and bone loss. Daily intake of these essential minerals can prevent osteoporosis.
5. Boosts Immunity
Ackee contains vitamin C and Zinc which aids in boosting immunity. Vitamin C helps boost the immune system by encouraging the development of white blood cells, and contributing some of its antioxidant powers to avoiding chronic diseases and cellular mutation. Additionally, vitamin C is an integral part of collagen, which is necessary for the body to make muscles, blood vessels, and tissues.
6. Heart Health
Ackee fruit contains unsaturated fatty acid which helps lower cholesterol level, thus protect us from atherosclerosis. As we already know, atherosclerosis can lead to various problems such as heart attacks, coronary heart disease and stroke.
7. Treats Anemia
Ackee fruit is high in iron and also contain folic acid, which is essential for the production of healthy red blood cells.vitamin C also helps in the absorbtion of iron in intestines.
8. Prevents Muscle Cramps
Muscle cramps are mainly caused due to electrolyte imbalance & dehydration and are quite common in the summer months. Sodium present in ackee is responsible for muscle contraction as well as hydration. Sodium rich juices and fluids help to restore the amount of electrolyte.
9. Controls Diabetes
Instead of being packed with empty carbs and calories, ackee is rich in complex, energy-producing carbs, which can help regulate the sugar levels in your body. By preventing the dips and spike in glucose levels that you get from simple sugars, ackee is able to help fend off type II diabetes. The high fiber content in ackee is also a great way to regulate glucose and insulin levels in the blood.
10. Regulates Circulation
If you suffer from anemia, it means you have a lack of iron in your diet. Ackee’s iron content solves that problem perfectly, ensuring that you avoid the side effects of anemia such as weakness, cognitive disorders, lightheadedness, and digestive distress. Iron is a key component of hemoglobin, which is necessary to produce RBC (red blood cells).
11. Cardiovascular diseases
The fruit prevents and controls cardiovascular ailments such as hypertension and other heart related ailments. The fruit contains minerals such as potassium that controls blood circulation in and out of the heart hence a good natural remedy for management of hypertension.
12. Controls Hypertension
People who have hypertension should increase the intake of potassium. Ackee fruit contains 270 mg of potassium (5,74% of daily value), so it is good to add ackee fruit in their diet. High potassium level in the blood will dilate blood vessels, making it easier for the heart to pump blood through the body. When the heart doesn’t need extra pressure to pump blood, the arterial blood pressure will be lower. Chronic hypertension is known to make damage to blood vessel. It is one of the risk factor of atherosclerosis too, which can lead to heart attack and stroke.
13. Treatment of Anemia
Ackee fruit is high in iron and also contain folic acid, 2 substances needed to produce healthy red blood cells. The vitamin C contained in this fruit is a big bonus, because vitamin C helps absorbtion of iron in intestines. It means, when we consume ackee fruit, we consume iron, folic acid and vitamin C at the same time. It sounds like a healthy combo.
14. Prevents Muscle Cramps
Muscle cramps can be caused by electrolyte imbalance and dehydration, especially after workouts or in hot days. Sodium and potassium contained in ackee fruit play important roles in electrolyte balance. Moreover, sodium is needed for muscle contraction, while potassium is needed for muscle relaxation. Consuming ackee fruit can help in restoring electrolyte balance, but we should rink plenty of water too to prevent dehydration.
15. Treatment of Skin Infections
African people use ackee leaves to treat ulcers, abcesses and yaws. The leaves are pounded and mixed with salt, then the mixture is put on the affected area. To get rid of cutaneous larva migrans, a shower or bath is taken with decoction of ackee leaves and bark.
16. Treatment of Edema
Pounded leaves and bark are put on the skin of edematous area. This traditional medicine works best for intercostal edema.
In Brazil, a small dose of aqueous extract of ackee seeds is administered to get rid of intestinal parasites. It has to be administered everyday for at least 3 days. To treat head lice, the outer flesh of the fruit is burned and the ash is used to wash the hair.
18. Treatment of Venomous Bites
In Africa, pounded bark is used as an antidote to snake, stings and scorpion bites, while the pounded leaves are put on the bitten area to prevent abscess.
How to Consume
The fresh pulp from fully ripe fruits can be consumed fresh or cooked. The fresh pulp has nutty-flavor, and the cooked one has texture of scrambled eggs.
The best way to cook the pulp is by parboil it in salted water or milk, then fry it lightly in butter, just like scrambled eggs. After parboiling, the pulp also can be added to curry, meat stew, and other dishes. Even with the canned pulp, preboiling is a must, since we don’t know any process that has happened to the pulps.
Ackee And Saltfish Recipe
Ackee and Saltfish
To prepare the dish, salt cod is sautéed with boiled ackee, onions, Scotch Bonnet peppers, tomatoes and spices. It is usually served as breakfast or dinner alongside breadfruit, hard dough bread, dumplings, fried plantain, or boiled green bananas. Ackee and Saltfish can also be eaten with rice and peas or plain white rice.
- ½-pound salt fish
- fresh ackee soaked, or tinned ackee
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 small sweet pepper (yellow/red or green), julienned
- 1 medium tomato, chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon scotch bonnet pepper, chopped finely (omit if you don’t want the dish spicy)
- 2 stalks scallion, chopped
- 1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- Put saltfish to soak in cold water for about 1 hour.
- Pour off water; add fresh water and boil until tender.
- De-bone and flake the saltfish.
- Heat oil and sauté onion, garlic, scallions, tomatoes, scotch bonnet pepper and sweet pepper until tender, about five to six minutes.
- Add flaked saltfish, fresh or canned ackee and black pepper.
- Toss lightly; cover and allow to stand over low heat for about 2 minutes.
Enjoy this most famous Jamaican dish!
Vegan Ackee (Gluten-Free)
How To Cook Ackee Without Saltfish?
For: 2 servings
- 1 can Jamaican ackee, drained and set aside
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- 1 cup onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup red bell pepper, diced
- 1 spring onion, chopped
- 1 sprig thyme, or 1/2 teaspoon dried
- 1 medium tomato, chopped or 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes cut into halves
- 1 whole Scotch Bonnet pepper, or 1 Habanero (for flavor optional)
- sea salt, to taste
Preparation:10 min Cooking:10 min Ready in:20 min
- Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add onions and cook stirring occasionally until soft, about 3 minutes.
- Stir in garlic and bell pepper and cook for another minute. Add spring onions, thyme and tomatoes and cook stirring for 1 minute.
- Add ackee to skillet with salt and Scotch Bonnet pepper stirring gently to coat with seasonings.
- Cover skillet and reduce to simmer for 5 minutes. Delicious served with dumplings, callaloo and fried plantains.
Negative Effects Of Ackee
The poison in ackee seeds and under-ripe arils causes vomiting followed by convulsions. The side effects can result in a coma
and death. The PAHO states that the amino acids hypoglycin A and B cause the fruit to be toxic. The hypoglycin content diminishes after sunlight reaches the mature arils.