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Hallmark has deemed February the month of LOVE, but just what is love? Many scientists attribute the idea of LOVE to a series of chemical reactions happening in the body. Conversely, others feel it’s a spiritual connection between two people. Whatever the answer may be, love is and always will be something feared, wanted and found. So, what can you find that is feared, wanted and found in Jamaica? Ackee fruit!

Origin

It’s feared, due to its lethal levels of raw toxicity; Wanted, for its unique texture; Found all around the island. In 1778, ships from West Africa, imported this food into Jamaica. Since that time, Ackee has been deemed a native food of Jamaica. Ackee or blighia sapida is part of the Sapindaceae (soapberry) family. It’s in close relation to lychee fruit. Ackee is pear-shaped and changes color during its ripening process. Inside are three large black seeds socked in a soft, spongy yellowish-white material or arilli. The arilli is the only non-toxic part of the fruit. After extraction, the arilli need to be immediately washed and boiled for 30 minutes, to rid it of any residual toxins. Most Jamaicans feel confident in their cooking skills to eat this native food daily, mostly at breakfast, because when cooked, it has the consistency of scrambled eggs and is often complimented well with saltfish, dumplings, bananas and breadfruit.

Nutritional Benefits

This section is about ‘Nutritional Benefits’ not toxicity, so we shall only focus on the positive. Ackee is a great source of essential fatty acids, Vitamin A, and zinc. Zinc has vital roles in immunity, growth/development (height, taste, smell), memory, wound healing and digestion.

Immune Function

Low levels of zinc impact the immune system function which in turn affects the digestion system. In 2010, Baum and Associates conducted a randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial at the Stempel College of Public Health and Social Work in Miami. They were studying, “the benefits and safety of zinc supplementation in nutritional doses to prevent immunological failure and to decrease morbidity and mortality among HIV-infected adults1.” In other words, they wanted to see how zinc would be able to help the immune system against the HIV virus, ameliorate its symptoms or lower the risk of death. What the researchers found was, “nutritional levels of zinc supplementation given to HIV-infected adults resulted in a 4-fold decrease in the likelihood of immunological failure and [it] also significantly reduced the morbidity associated with HIV-related diarrhea1.”

Wound Healing

Our skin is the largest organ of the human body and it accounts for 15% of our body weight. A scientist named Berger along with his colleagues in 2007, wanted to see how the trace elements (copper, selenium and zinc) interacted with tissue penetration compared with a placebo (fake supplement) and if beneficial clinical effects, like improved wound healing or a reduction in specific infectious complications would be present. Using a small sample of patients, with greater than 20% burn damage, they found that, wounds healed without typical severity of complication, had an increased adaptation to skin grafting and stayed a little shorter than most in an ICU with zinc supplementation.

Interesting Facts

  • The dried seeds, fruit bark and leaves of Ackee are used medicinally.
  • The fruit is used to produce soap in some parts of Africa.
  • “In 2005 the Ackee industry was valued at $400 million in the island2.”

Recipe: Ackee and Saltfish1
ackeeplate

Ingredients

1/2 lb Saltfish (dried, salted codfish)

1 (drained) can of Ackee

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 medium onion, sliced

3-4 medium sized tomatoes, chopped

4 scallion, chopped

3 tablespoons of butter

Salt and black pepper

Fresh thyme sprigs

1/2 Scotch Bonnet pepper (optional)

Directions:

    1. Start off by placing Saltfish in a pot covered with water overnight.
    1. Empty out the sitting water and wash off Saltfish.
    1. Then add more water to pot re-submerging Saltfish.
    1. Place on medium heat and boil until Saltfish becomes soft (approx. 20 minutes)
    1. Remove the fish from water and cool.
    1. Remove all the bones and skin, flake the fish and put aside.
    1. Gather tomatoes, onions, garlic, scallions, and thyme
    1. Slice yellow onions.
    1. Dice tomatoes.
    1. Chop up garlic and thyme. Make sure to pull the leaves from the thyme stems.
    1. If brave enough add a little heat with scotch bonnet.
    1. In a large frying pan, melt butter on medium heat then dump all chopped ingredients. Stir-fry for 10 minutes.
    1. Add flaked Saltfish.
    1. Add black pepper and salt.
    1. Add vegetable oil to keep Saltfish moist
    1. Add Ackee to pan
  1. Stirring gently to avoid breaking the Ackee.

Finishing Touches: Serve this dish with boiled or fried dumplings, bammy and breadfruit.

References

  1. Yummy. (2010, January 1). Ackee and saltfish recipe. Retrieved from ThatsSoYummy.com
    website: http://www.thatssoyummy.com/recipes/ackee-and-saltfish-recipe/
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