Ackee - National Fruit of Jamaica
Ackee is the national fruit of Jamaica. Its name is derived from the West African Akye fufo. The tree is not endemic to the West Indies but was introduced from West Africa during the 18th century. The plant was named Blighia sapida in honour of Captain William Bligh who in 1793 took samples to Kew Gardens in south London. Ackee trees are found across the island of Jamaica but the main producing areas are located in Clarendon and St Elizabeth. There are two bearing seasons: between January to March and June to August.The flower are unisexual and fragrant. They have five petals, are greenish-white and bloom during warm months. The fruit is pear-shaped. When it ripens, it turns from green to a bright red to yellow-orange, and splits open to reveal three large, shiny black seeds, surrounded by soft, creamy or spongy, white to yellow flesh. The fruit typically weighs 100–200 grams (3.5–7.1 oz) . Traditionally it is at this time that the ackees are harvested and the edible portion (the arilli) removed and cleaned in preparation for cooking. This delicacy is enjoyed by many at breakfast or as an entree. The canned product is exported to ethnic markets worldwide and continues to be enjoyed by both visitors to the island and Jamaicans residing overseas. Levels of hypoglycin A in the ackee arilli peak at maturity but rapidly diminish to non-detectable levels in the opened fruit making it safe for consumption. The canned ackee fruit is a major export product in Jamaica. In 2005, the ackee industry of Jamaica was valuedat $400 million. The importing of canned ackee into the U.S. has at times been restricted due to unripe ackee arilli being included. However, it is currently allowed, provided that the amount of hypoglycin present meets the standards of the food and drug administration.