The ackee is a fruit related to the lychee and longan and is native to the tropics of West Africa. Its parent tree grows up to 50 feet tall, and the fruit itself is red or yellow and between three and four inches long. When the ackee is ripe, it bursts into sections, showcasing large toxic black seeds atop a partially-edible yellow arilli. It most likely arrived in Jamaica before 1778 by way of a slave ship and has now become the country’s national fruit. The country’s national dish is ackee and saltfish, or dried and salted cod, often made with garlic, thyme, and black pepper.
If ackee is eaten before completely ripe, the poison in it, called hypoglycin, elicits an effect called the “Jamaican Vomiting Sickness,” which at its worst can lead to a coma or death. Make sure not to prepare it until the fruit opens up naturally.
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