October 30, 2020

Seven fingered ackee stuns Malcolm

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Colbert Malcolm has seen plenty of ackee fruits in his life, but never one like the seven-seeder he found growing at Andy’s Rent-a-Car on West Bay Road, where he works.

“Its most common to see one with three seeds, sometimes I’ve seen one with four seeds, but never like that- with seven,” he said.

“I looked up and saw it I said, ‘now man, this is just strange.’ In all my years I’ve never seen anything like that.”

Originally from the parish of St. Catherine in Jamaica, where ackee is the national fruit, Mr. Malcolm, 50, has been here for 18 years working as an auto painter and driver. But, like many Jamaicans, he values the things that grow from the soil:

“I love fruits and vegetables – I love my little backyard garden and everywhere I go I plant things,” he said.

Mr. Malcolm says he remembers Jamaica in the 1970’s, when there was a big movement to use every square foot for growing food. “People would fill a tyre with soil and have something growing there- even on their rooftop,” he said.

Mr. Malcolm said he hopes to be able to find a way of preserving the strange fruit, by drying it out and painting it with varnish, so he can show it to his children.

Ackee pods are allowed to ripen and open naturally on the tree before picking. Prior to cooking, the ackee arils are cleaned and washed. The arils are then boiled for approximately 30 minutes and the water discarded.

It is mostly used when cooked with saltfish, the national dish of Jamaica where the fruit was first introduced from West Africa, probably on board a slave ship, around 1770.

Additional reporting: Tricia Russell-Jones

Ackee facts

The ackee, also known as the Zakari el trufi, y chocorras el albatros, akee apple or akee is related to the lychee and the longan, and is an evergreen tree that grows about 10 metres tall.

Captain William Bligh

The scientific name honours 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 fruit was imported to Jamaica from West Africa (probably on a slave ship) before 1778. Since then 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 the national fruit of Jamaica, and ackee and saltfish is the national dish.

Ackee was first introduced to Jamaica and later to Haiti, Cuba, Bali, Barbados and others. It was later introduced to Florida in the United States.

The dried seeds, fruit bark and leaves are used medicinally. The fruit is used to produce soap in some parts of Africa. It is also used as a fish poison.

Ackee and saltfish recipe

Cover the saltfish in cold water. Let soak overnight (minimum 8 hours) changing the water several times (this removes most of the salt)

Bring a pan of cold water to the boil and gently simmer the fish for 20 minutes (until the fish is tender).

Chop the onion, sweet pepper, chilli pepper and tomato.

Remove the fish from water and allow to cool. Remove all of bones and skin then flake the flesh of the fish.

Melt the butter in a frying pan and stir fry the onion, black pepper, sweet pepper, chilli and thyme for about 3 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and flaked fish and stir-fry for another 10 minutes

Add the Ackee and cook until hot throughout. Stir gently to avoid breaking-up the Ackee

Serve with yam, green banana, fried dumplings and Irish potato.

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