The ackee, also known as achee, ackee apple or ayee (Blighia sapida), a fruit, which belongs to the member of the Sapindaceae (soapberry family), as are the lychee and the longan. It is the native to tropical West Africa.
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. Although native to West Africa, the use of ackee in food is especially prominent in Jamaican cuisine. Ackee is the national fruit of Jamaica, and ackee and saltfish is the national dish. A local company even makes ackee wine.
Benefits of Ackee
- Aids in Digestion – The rich fiber content of ackee makes it an ideal digestive aid, given that dietary fiber helps bulk up the stool, as well as eliminate constipation, by inducing peristaltic motion in the gut. This helps in moving food along, preventing bloating, cramping, constipation, and even inflammation of the colon, which could further lead to colorectal cancer. Dietary fiber also helps in lowering cholesterol and boost heart health!
- Lowers Blood Pressure – The high potassium content of ackee acts as a vasodilator, reducing the strain on your cardiovascular system, thereby lowering your chances of hypertension and atherosclerosis.
- Controls Diabetes – Instead of being packed with empty carbs and calories, ackee is rich in complex, energy-producing carbs, which can help in regulating the sugar levels in our body. By preventing the dips and spike in glucose levels that are due to 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.
- Improves Heart Health – Ackee boosts an impressive range of beneficial fatty acids, including stearic, linoleic, and palmitic acids. These particular acids are unsaturated fats, which is used to improve health of heart and lower badcholesterol levels. By eliminating most of the unhealthy saturated fats from the diet protects the individual against atherosclerosis, strokes, heart attacks, and coronary heart disease.
- 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 is praised for its high protein content which is unusually high for a fruit.
- Increases Bone Strength – There are a number of essential minerals found in ackee, including calcium, phosphorus, iron, and zinc, all of which contribute to healthier bones and help in preventing bone loss and demineralization. Consistent intake of minerals can slow, stop, or reverse the effects of osteoporosis as we age, leaving us stronger for longer!
- Boosts Immunity – One of the most common vitamins found in fruits and vegetables is vitamin C, and ackee is no exception. With a rich ascorbic acid content, ackee helps to boost our immune system by promoting the development of white blood cells, and contributing some of its antioxidant powers for preventing chronic diseases and cellular mutation. Furthermore, vitamin C is an integral part of collagen, which is required by the body to make muscles, blood vessels, and tissues.
- Regulates Circulation – If you suffer from anemia, it means you have a lack of iron in your diet. Ackee’s iron content solves the 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).
Word of caution
Despite of many benefits of this fruit, it is highly toxic when eaten before it ripens. The seeds of the fruit are also poisonous and you cannot eat the pulpy aril inside the ackee fruit until it matures. Once it splits open naturally and the arils are exposed to sunlight, the arils are no longer poisonous.
Traditional Jamaican treatments using Ackee include:
- Seed extracts are used in the treatment of parasites.
- The ripe Jamaican ackee fruit is consumed to lower fever and to control dysentery.
- A poultice of crushed ackee leaves is applied to the forehead to alleviate headaches.
- The skin of the fruit can be used to heal ulcers.
Recipe for Ackee and Salt Fish
A delicious and savory jamaican breakfast
Prep time: 15 Minutes , Cook time: 30 Minutes , Total time: 45 Minutes , Yield: Serves 4
½ lb. Saltfish (usually preserved/salted cod)
1 dozen ackees
1 small onion, chopped
pinch of thyme
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small red sweet pepper , chopped
2-3 Tbs coconut or olive oil
- Soak saltfish in water for a few hours to remove some of the salt, Rinse thoroughly
- Clean the ackee. Remove the seeds and all traces of interior red pit from the ackees. Wash ackee fruits thoroughly (rinsing several times)
- Place Ackee in pot of water and boil for 30 mins. Drain, cover, and put aside.
- Remove any bones from the fish.
- In a small pot or frying pan, sauté chopped onions and sweet peppers.
- Remove half of the fried onions and peppers
- Add saltfish and the ackees.
- Sautee together for 6-8 minutes.
- Serve as a side dish, on toast, in a wrap, or over salad.
Recipe for Ackee Bread
Prep Time : 10 minutes, Cook Time:40 minutes, Cooling time: 15 minutes, Total Time: 50 minutes
Servings: 12 slices.
1 can Ackee (approximately 2 cups soft parboiled ackee)
1/2 cup Brown sugar not packed
1/2 cup Granulated sugar
1/3 cup (113g) Oil
2 cups (258g) All-purpose Flour
1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt
Preheat oven to 350F and spray or grease and lightly flour a 9″x5″x3″ loaf pan
Sift flour, baking powder and soda into a large mixing bowl, add salt and whisk. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, mash the ackee (a whisk or a rubber spatula does this well, alternately, you could pass the ackee through a sieve or blend it). Add the sugars then the eggs followed by the oil mixing till well combined.
Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and pour in the ackee mix.
Gently mix till it is well combined. Pour into prepared loaf pan and smooth top with a spatula.
Bake for 30 minutes, then reduce temperature to 325F and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes till done. – A skewer is inserted in the loaf will come out clean and/or it will spring back when lightly touched.
Remove from oven and allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Turn out of pan and let it cool completely on a wire rack.
Slice and enjoy!