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Ackee fruit
Ackee fruit
Plant Info
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Poisonous: {{{poisonous}}}
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Scientific classification
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Kingdom: Plantae
Subkingdom: Tracheobionta
Superdivision: Spermatophyta
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Division: Magnoliophyta
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Class: Magnoliopsida
Sublass: Rosidae
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Superorder: {{{superordo}}}
Order: Sapindales
Suborder: {{{subordo}}}
Infraorder: {{{infraordo}}}
Superfamily: {{{superfamilia}}}
Family: Sapindaceae
Subfamily: {{{subfamilia}}}
Supertribe: {{{supertribus}}}
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Genus: Blighia
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Species: B. sapida
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Binomial name
Blighia sapida
Trinomial name
Type Species

The Ackee or Akee (Blighia sapida) is a member of the Sapindaceae (soapberry family), native to tropical West Africa in Cameroon, Gabon, Sao Tome and Principe, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote D'Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo.[1]

It is related to the Lychee and the Longan, and is an evergreen tree that grows about 10 metres tall, with a short trunk and a dense crown. The leaves are pinnate,[2] leathery, compound, 15–30 centimetres long, with 6–10 elliptical obovate-oblong leaflets. Each leaflet is 8–12 centimetres long and 5–8 centimetres broad.

Ackee Flower

The flowers are unisexual and fragrant. They have five petals, are greenish-white[3] and bloom during warm months.[4] 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, surrounded by soft, creamy or spongy, white to yellow flesh—arilli.[2]The fruit typically weighs 100–200 grams.[2]

The scientific name honours Captain William Bligh who took the fruit from Jamaica to the UK in 1793 and introduced it to science. The fruit was imported to Jamaica from West Africa (probably on a slave ship) before 1778.[5] 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. The term 'ackee' originated from the Twi language.[6] Other names and variant spellings include Ackee, Akee, akee apple, Achee, or vegetable brain.


Cultivation and uses

Although native to West Africa, consumption of ackee for food takes place mainly in Jamaican cuisine, where ackee and saltfish is the national dish. Salted dried cod is sautéed with ackee (boiled), onions, peppers, tomatoes, herbs, and may be garnished with crisp bacon and fresh tomatoes.

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

The oil of the ackee arils contains many important nutrients, especially fatty acids. Linoleic, palmitic and stearic acids are the primary fatty acids found in the fruit.[7] Ackee oil makes an important contribution to the diet of many Jamaicans.

The dried seeds, fruit bark and leaves are used medicinally.[8] The fruit is used to produce soap in some parts of Africa. It is also used as a fish poison.[9]

Ackee poisoning

Closed Ackee Fruit

The fruit of the Ackee is not edible in entirety. It is only the fleshy arils around the seeds that are edible; the remainder of the fruit and seeds are poisonous. The fruit must only be picked after it has opened naturally, and it must be fresh and not overripe. Immature and overripe ackee fruit are also poisonous. The fruit, even when ripe, is a cause of Jamaican vomiting sickness, characterized by vomiting and hypoglycemia.

Ackees may be poisonous, but they do contain vitamin A, zinc, and protein.

The unripened or inedible portions of the fruit contain the toxins hypoglycin A and hypoglycin B. Hypoglicin A is found in both the seeds and the arilli, while hypoglycin B is found only in the seeds.[2] Hypoglycin is converted in the body to methylenecyclopropyl acetic acid (MCPA). Hypoglycin and MCPA are both toxic. MCPA inhibits several enzymes involved in the breakdown of acyl CoA compounds. Hypoglycin binds irreversibly to coenzyme A and carnitine reducing their bioavailability and consequently inhibiting beta oxidation of fatty acids. Beta oxidation normally provides the body with ATP, NADH and acetyl CoA which is used to supplement the energy produced by glycolysis. Glucose stores are consequently depleted leading to hypoglycemia.[10]

Economic importance

The ackee fruit is canned and is a major export product in Jamaica. In 2005 the ackee industry was valued at $400 million in the island.[11] The importing of canned ackee into the U.S. has at times been restricted due to unripe ackee arilli being included. However, it is currently allowed, provided that the amount of hypoglycin present meets the standards of the Food and Drug Administration. In 2005 the first commercial shipments of canned ackee from Haiti were approved by the US-FDA for shipment to the US market.12 The canning plant in Port-au-Prince is supplied with fruit from three commercial orchards on the outskirts of the city.


Template:Reflist 12. http://www.fda.gov/ora/fiars/ora_import_ia2111.html

External links


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