Ackee: The Exotic “Vegetable Brain”

The ackee is probably one of the most interesting exotic fruits I’ve encountered in my research so far.  The ackee also goes by another interesting name, vegetable brain, as well as some other variants of its name: achee, akee apple, and akee.

Fruit background

Looking at an ackee, it might be hard to see what “family” of fruits the ackee belongs to.  In fact, the ackee is actually a type of soapberry, which makes it closely related to the lychee as well as the longan, which I have covered before.  Though a soapberry, the ackee doesn’t grow in the same region as the lychee or longan at all.  The ackee is actually native to West Africa, but since the late 18th century the ackee has been cultivated in the Caribbean, and is now a huge feature of Caribbean cuisine.

ackee

Ackee–a fruit with delicious, creamy flesh.

On the outside, the ackee appears like a pear-shaped orange-red fruit with ridges.  Each fruit is usually one hundred to two hundred grams.  Once opened, you can see three large and shiny black seeds, similar to the lychee and longan.  The flesh of the ackee is absolutely delicious – it is creamy, fragrant, soft, and juicy all at the same time.

Nowadays, the ackee is most popular in Caribbean cuisine, or more specifically, Jamaican cuisine.  In fact, the ackee is the national fruit of Jamaica.

Health benefits and nutrients

The ackee, like many other tropical exotic fruits, provides an amazing source of various nutrients and other health benefits.  Each ackee aril contains an excellent supply of oil, which is packed full of nutrients as well as fatty acids, including linoleic, stearic, and palmitic acids.

Even more, in folk medicine, the ackee has been used in various ways in several cultures.  For example, after drying the seeds, bark of the fruit, and leaves of the ackee, the ackee has been used to treat various health ailments.

Further reading

  1. Jamaican Cooking Made Easy: Volume I
  2. Eat Caribbean

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