Ackee, sometimes called ‘akee’, is the red, pear-shaped fruit of a tropical African tree. It’s related to the lychee and the longan. The fruit is very popular in Caribbean cuisine – it’s the national fruit of Jamaica – and is thought to have first arrived from Africa via a slave ship. It was later imported to Kew Botanical Gardens from Jamaica by Captain William Bligh of the Bounty in 1793.
When it ripens, it turns from green to a bright red to yellow-orange, and splits open to reveal three large, shiny black seeds, each partly surrounded by soft, creamy or spongy, white to yellow edible flesh—the aril. The fruit is toxic before it ripens and should not be eaten.
Canned ackee is available from some supermarkets and Afro-Caribbean grocers. Although technically a fruit, it’s usually served as a vegetable, commonly as an accompaniment to salt fish, but see below for a recipe by Levi Roots.