Botanical Name: Blighia sapida
Synonyms: Cupania sapida Voigt
Common Names: Ackee, Ackee apple or Ayee (Blighia sapida)
Habitat:Ackee is native to tropical West Africa. The scientific name honors 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 English common name is derived from the West African Akan akye fufo.
Ackee is an evergreen tree that grows about 10 metres tall, with a short trunk and a dense crown. The leaves are paripinnately, compound 15–30 centimetres (5.9–11.8 in) long, with 6–10 elliptical to oblong leathery leaflets. Each leaflet is 8–12 centimetres (3.1–4.7 in) long and 5–8 centimetres (2.0–3.1 in) wide. The inflorescences are fragrant, up to 20 cm long, with unisexual flowers that bloom during warm months. Each flower has five greenish-white petals, which are fragrant.
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, each partly surrounded by soft, creamy or spongy, white to yellow flesh — the aril having a nut-like flavor and texture of scrambled eggs. The fruit typically weighs 100–200 grams (3.5–7.1 oz).
A plant of the drier to very wet lowland tropics and subtropics, where it is found at elevations up to 900 metres. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 24 – 27c, but can tolerate 20 – 34c. Mature plants can be killed by temperatures of -3c or lower, but young plants are intolerant of any frost. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 2,000 – 4,000mm, but tolerates 700 – 6,000mm. Grows best in a sunny position. Prefers a moist, loamy, fertile, well-drained soil. Plants can succeed in a range of soils, including infertile, rocky soils. Prefers a pH in the range 5.5 – 6.5, tolerating 4.3 – 8. Established plants are drought tolerant. Initial growth is fast on moderately fertile soils. Seedlings grow best in gaps in the forest canopy, with a mean annual height increment of 70cm. Plants can commence cropping when 3 – 4 years old from seed. The plant has been known to escape from cultivation when grown in sandy soils. Plants flower intermittently throughout the year. A dioecious species, both male and female forms need to be grown if fruit and seed are required.
Imported to Jamaica from West Africa in 1773, the use of ackee in Jamaican cuisine is prominent. Ackee is the national fruit of Jamaica, and ackee and saltfish is the national dish.
The akee is allowed to open fully before picking. When it has “yawned”, the seeds are discarded and the fresh, firm arils are parboiled in salted water or milk, and may be fried in butter to create a delicious dish. In Caribbean cooking, they may be cooked with codfish and vegetables, or may be added to stew, curry, soup or rice with seasonings.
The plant (part not specified) is used to treat anaemia and itching. In traditional medicine , Blighia sapida is widely used for the treatment of yellow fever, epilepsy and oedema, and as a laxative and diuretic. Sap from terminal buds is instilled in the eyes to treat ophthalmia and conjunctivitis. The pulp of ground-up leafy twigs is rubbed on the forehead to treat migraine. The ground-up leaves, combined with plant salts, are applied as a paste to treat yaws and ulcers. The leaves are used in the treatment of fever and vertigo, and twigs to treat hepatitis, cirrhosis and amygdalitis. Bark and leaf decoctions are administered to treat oedema, intercostal pain, dysentery and diarrhoea. Decoctions of bark or fruit walls are applied to wounds. Pounded bark is administered as an antidote to snake and scorpion bites. The bark, ground-up with capsicum pepper (Capsicum annuum), is rubbed on the body as a stimulant. The seeds are taken to treat stomach complaints, including nausea and vomiting. Aqueous seed extracts are administered to expel parasites. The fruit pulp is used to treat whitlow. A water-soluble and heat-stable toxic compound, hypoglycin A, is present in the aril of unripe seeds, as well as in the seed and in the pinkish to reddish tissue at the base of the aril. The Jamaican vomiting sickness is associated with this compound and is characterized by vomiting, generalized weakness, altered consciousness and sometimes even death. Hypoglycaemia and depression of the central nervous system are common. The aril of fully ripe seeds after natural dehiscence of the fruit is nearly free of the toxic compound. The consumption of unripe seed arils has probably caused many cases of encephalopathy in children in Burkina Faso and other West African countries.
Design: Small shade tree; small fruiting tree; specimen tree; xerophytic. Agroforestry Uses: The tree is often planted to provide shade. It is considered useful for soil improvement and erosion control. Other Uses: The dried fruit husks are rich in potash; the ashes can be used in making soap. The flowers are used in the preparation of an aromatic water. Used as a cosmetic. The green fruits lather in warm water and are used as soap for washing and as a mordant for dyeing. The oil from the seeds are used in making traditional soap. The seeds contain about 26% of oil which is suitable for industrial applications. An ink for tattoos is made from the seeds. The heartwood is orange-brown or reddish brown; it is distinctly demarcated from the whitish sapwood. The texture is moderately coarse; the wood has little lustre. It is moderately heavy, hard, moderately durable and quite resistant to termite attack. It is easy to work with both machine and hand tools. The wood moulds and sands well and takes an attractive finish. The wood is mainly used for light construction and furniture, but sometimes also for casks, boxes, crates, food containers, packing cases, tool handles, paddles, pestles, mortars, handicrafts, carving and turnery. It is suitable for interior trim, joinery and railway sleepers. Dried fruit husks are rich in potash. The wood is used for fuel and to make charcoal. Wild fruit for birds and bats nectar for bees. A honey plant.
Great care should be exercised if eating this fruit. It must only be eaten when fully ripe since both before and after that stage it is considered to be poisonous. A toxic peptide, hypoglycine A, is contained in the unripe aril. The pink raphe that attaches the aril to its seed is deadly toxic and must be carefully and completely removed. The pounded fruit is used as fish poison.
Though ackee is used widely in traditional dishes, research on its potential hypoglycin toxicity has been sparse and preliminary, requiring evaluation in well-designed clinical research to better understand its pharmacology, food uses, and methods for detoxification.
Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.