There is something to be said about a people who have nationalized a poisonous fruit —our resourcefulness at transformation.
Brought from West Africa, Ackee also known as Akan, if eaten before it ripens and opens its pods naturally produces toxins– hypoglycin A and B, that when converted into the body are lethal, and can result in what Jamaicans call vomiting sickness.
How Jamaicans came to figure out when to eat the ackee, to wait until it ripens naturally, and how it came to be made our national dish beats me. I think it is one of the most beautiful plants, its pear-shaped red colour, shiny black seeds and three pods fruit in each pot, with a menstrual red membrane that must be removed before cooking.
As Jamaica’s national disk, ackee is steamed with salt-fish and eaten with breadfruit, or boiled green banana, fried plantain, or cooked with rice commonly called seasoned rice as a one-pot meal, or now made into patties, or quiche or done in a variety of ways. I recently learned that it can be eaten raw or chopped and tossed into a salad. Like any fruit, the numerous ways ackee can be prepared is yet to be discovered.
Its pods and seeds are tossed into compose, but the dried ackee pod is elegant, and its decorative abilities has to be explored; I have long believed its seeds would make beautiful jewelry.
Jamaican are one of the most resourceful and creative people that I know, and I readily admit my bias as a fellow Jamaican. But truly our creativity and ingenuity are limitless. What we lack is discipline and a spirit of Ujamaa, collective and cooperative economics.
I believe in us. I believe that African Jamaicans will yet acknowledge and come together in the spirit of fraternity, and create a bright future for the African population. I await all the positives ackee vibes we will unleash as a result of COVID 19.
Stay safe and blessed. Asè