Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Ackee is the Jamaican national fruit and I love it so much that I ate it everyday while I was on the island. An exotic fruit that's cooked as a vegetable, ackee is indigenous to West Africa and has been a staple in the Jamaican diet since the 18th century. The trees bear clusters of red fruit that burst open when ripe.
The ackee fruit features soft yellow flesh that resembles scrambled eggs and shiny black seeds. By itself, ackee has a rather bland flavor but when it is paired with saltfish, it's transformed into the Jamaican national dish, full of savory deliciousness.
Ackee and saltfish is traditionally served as breakfast but it can also appear as an entree anytime of the day. I started my day with a heaping plate of ackee and saltfish, accompanied by festival, fried dough that soaks up the flavor and makes the meal that much more tasty. Every morning, I sat on the veranda of my villa, gorging on ackee and saltfish and sipping fresh Jamaican ginger tea. I savored the experience because in the U.S., you can only buy canned ackee and it's not even close to the freshness of the just-picked fruit.
I felt compelled to stop and grab a close up view whenever I spotted an ackee tree in Jamaica. I would have picked the fruit but ackee is toxic until it's fully ripe. Instead, I cozied up to the tree, like the old friend that it is.