Thursday, September 17, 2009

Off The Beaten Path - Ackees!

Native to Africa, the Ackee was brought over to the new world in the late 1700's by Captain William Bligh. It was brought to cheaply sustain the diets of slaves. It is now the national fruit of Jamaica and a staple in most every Jamaican's diet. Although usually associated with the Jamaican National dish of Ackees and Salt Fish, Ackee's are also used in meatless dishes as well.

At times in history, the Ackee has been outlawed in some countries, including the USA. The reason being that the Ackee can be rather toxic, carrying hypoglycin A and hypoglycin B. However, once the fruit has ripened and opened up naturally to reveal the fleshy, edible arils, the toxicity subsides and for the most part disappears, existing only in the seeds that, of course, should not be eaten. When you get sick from eating unripe Ackees, it is considered 'Jamaican vomitting sickness'. does not recognize Ackee's but food value information from Mexico states that the fruit is high in protein, calcium, phosphorus and iron.

I put away a can of Ackees today for the first time. I used a recipe from that was completely vegan and quite delicious. Of course, I bastardized it ever so slightly like I do with every recipe!

This is the original:

1 can Ackee
2 oz. cooking oil
1 large onion
2 plum tomatoes
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp black pepper


In a frying pan, sauté onions and tomatoes, without burning onions, until onions are soft.
Open the can of Ackees and drain off the brine.
Add Ackees to onions and tomatoes and fold together.
Cook for 2 minutes and add salt to taste.

Here's my version:

1 can Ackees
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (give or take a tbsp or 2)
1 large onion (yellow, cooking)
10 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 heaping tbsp black pepper
1 heaping tbsp garlic powder

The instructions are the same as the original. I changed the tomatoes simply because that was what I had in the garden. I subbed the garlic powder for salt because I've never believed in adding salt to anything. Olive oil is most always my choice of cooking oil.

What the fruit comes out of the can looking like is scrambled eggs. In fact, in certain cultures the translated name is somewhat equivalent to egg-fruit. Many other local names refer to the Ackee as brains.

The final product I found to be amazingly like scrambled eggs. I read that in Jamaica, the people almost consider it a meat more than a fruit. With the nutritional makeup and the taste, I can see why. It was great tasting. I had it on top of a few slices of bread and I had two plate fulls. I would have had more but there was none!

Unfortunately, I can't buy Ackees at this time in my town. There is a Caribbean specialty market about a half hour away, at the north end of Brampton, that does carry them, though. I will be stocking up this weekend when I pass through. I may even be able to pawn this recipe off on my carnivorous family if I tell them that it's scrambled eggs!

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