Although not native to the Caribbean, Ackee is the national fruit of Jamaica. The fruit was imported into Jamaica from West Africa during the late eighteenth century. Ackee’s scientific name, blighia sapida, comes from Captain William Bligh, who took the fruit from Jamaica to the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, England in 1793 and introduced it to science.The common name is derived from the West African Akan akye fufo.



The reddish-yellow fruit of an evergreen tree is often called “vegetable brains” since the fruit lies within the red section. The fruit turns red on reaching maturity and splits open with continued exposure to the sun. Traditionally it is at this time that the ackees are harvested and the edible bright yellow flesh (the arilli) is removed and cleaned in preparation for cooking.


Food uses:

Ackee is popular in dishes featuring saltfish, hot pepper and onions. It has become a major feature of various Caribbean cuisines, and is also cultivated in tropical and subtropical areas elsewhere around the world. Ackee is sold canned in West Indian markets and is exported to ethnic markets worldwide. Ackee continues to be enjoyed by both visitors to the island and Jamaicans residing overseas. Ackee is also a popular breakfast food throughout Jamaica. In some other Caribbean islands ackee is grown as an ornamental tree.


Health & nutrition values:

Ackee is poisonous if eaten before it is fully mature and because of its toxicity, it is subject to import restrictions. If improperly eaten, ackee can cause what has been dubbed the Jamaican Vomiting Sickness which can lead to coma or death. Unripe ackee fruit contains a poison called hypoglycin, so preparers must be careful to wait until the fruit’s protective pods turn red and open naturally. Once open, the only edible portion is the yellow arilli, which surround always-toxic black seeds. Knowledge of proper harvesting techniques is widespread in Jamaica so cases of poisoning are rare. In any case, serious illness due to eating unripe ackees has only been recorded in those who are already ill or frail.


Cultural Festival:

Ackee Fest


References/Bibliography:,28804,1967235_1967238_1967211,00.html (Ackee & Saltfish Recipe)