Sweet comeback or a rat-race for the ackee?
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CTA. 2001. Sweet comeback or a rat-race for the ackee?. Spore 92. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
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It s only a yellow fruit, but it is almost sacred among its aficionadas, or ackee-onadas as they are coming to be known. The ackee is widely regarded as poisonous, yet it is the official national fruit of Jamaica, among whose diaspora it is...
It s only a yellow fruit, but it is almost sacred among its aficionadas, or ackee-onadas as they are coming to be known. The ackee is widely regarded as poisonous, yet it is the official national fruit of Jamaica, among whose diaspora it is revered. The ackee (Blighia sapida) is an evergreen tree of West Africa, introduced into Jamaica in 1797. It is widely known in central America and the Caribbean, with such Spanish names as fruto de huevo (egg fruit its cooked fruit looks like scrambled egg). In Ghana, the fruiting tree is a much liked ornamental. In Côte d Ivoire it is called kaka or finzan; in the Sudan, finza. Elsewhere in Africa it is known as akye, akyen or ishin, and in Portuguese it is castanheiro de Africa (African chestnut). How can a fruit which is so widely known in at least three ACP regions have been developed so little? In Trinidad it was outlawed in 1900, having allegedly caused fatalities; in the United States, there was an import ban for 27 years, until July 2000. The reason is fear of poisoning, which are not fully founded. The seeds are poisonous. The fleshy arils surrounding the seeds, however, whilst poisonous for some species when raw, are not toxic when ripened, dried in the air and cooked. So, as with so many plants, pay regard to some basic rules and the ackee is safe and enjoyable to eat, and nutritional. There are medicinal uses for its bark, and its oils are used to treat dysentery. With the US export ban lifted, Jamaican producers see a prospect of export earnings doubling within two years, from the 2000 level of US$ 14 million of which 70% was from sales to Britain and Canada. But the export euphoria has already blown away. Before plans could even be firmed up to expand cultivation into plantations, Jamaica s perennial problem of praedial theft theft from the farm was ruining existing plots. In the US, unscrupulous traders have doubled the price of a 500 gram can to US$ 9, amid mutterings of mafia tactics and ackee for yuppies only . Complacency is also a threat: the widespread belief that the nation s ackee, like its coffee or pimentos (allspice), are surely the world s best and probably the finest too, has blinded people to other countries starting to cash in on the ackee hype. From Mexico to Kenya there is barely a country without plans for this crop. Be that as it may, this correspondent recognises a nation s gift to the world: cook it with a little onion, tomato and salt fish, add a thyme leaf if you like, and your day is made. [caption to illustration] Finger lickin export sales, for a while at least
- CTA Spore (English)