In Jamaica, the ackee fruit is a mixed blessing. If improperly eaten, though, ackee can cause what has been dubbed the Jamaican vomiting sickness- which other than the self explanatory symptoms can lead to coma or death.
The unripe ackee fruit contains a poison called hypoglycin. This poison is only neutralised when preparers are careful to use only the ackee that's popped out of its protective pod by itself when it turns red.Ones opened the only edible part is the yellow arilli,which surrounds always-toxic black seeds. However with all this risk comes a delicious payoff. If someone forcefully pops the ackee from the pod then it's sure death in a pot when prepared.
History has it that ackee originated from West Africa and migrated to Jamaica in 1778. It has now become the country's national fruit and food for champions, as the likes of Hussein Bolt have ackee and Codfish for breakfast.
Ackee is prepared together with Codfish, a well preserved salt fish originating from the choppy water of Northern Europe and Eastern Canada. Saltfish (traditionally cod) is caught and prepared in the North Atlantic. In the days before freezers and refrigerators, drying and salting was the main means of preserving fish. By the mid-17th Century, it became economically viable to transport large quantities of salted cod from Nova Scotia in Canada to Britain’s Caribbean colonies, where it was traded for rum, sugar and molasses.
Speaking with Rosemarie Dickens a Jamaican American, about this poisonous fruit made so popular by Jamaicans she indicated that cooking ackee is as harvesting ackee yourself is as dangerous as buying it from the market since one cannot tell in the case of buying it from the market; if the fruit was allowed to pop out naturally from the the pod when ripened. She further narrated how native Jamaican will prefer this meal to be cooked
"First you boil the ackee and saltfish together for around 20 minutes before draining and removing any fish bones, Next, you sauté onions, tomatoes, scallions, green bell peppers, scotch bonnet peppers in a separate pan. Add the boiled ackee and saltfish, sprinkle with a little thyme and black pepper and it’s ready to serve."
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