From our hillside, I can view the ackee tree laden with fruits that are already opened and ready for harvesting. It is always a pleasure to eat ackee picked from our own tree. The ackee tree was introduced to Jamaica from West Africa during the 18th century by Thomas Clarke – Jamaica’s first botanist. It was named Blighia sapida in honour of Captain William Bligh who took the fruit from our island to the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, England in 1793, and introduced it to science. Captain Bligh also brought the first breadfruit to Jamaica.Quite a few ackee trees have opened pods now as it is ackee season. However, if your ackee tree have pods that are taking too long to split open during ackee season, you can hasten the maturing process by doing a simple trick.
I read that you should go and stand under the ackee tree and have a good laugh; yes, laugh out loud for about five minutes or so. Amazingly, the pods on your ackee tree will begin to mature and split open after a few days.
When the ackee pod opens naturally, these toxins diminish rapidly to non-detectable levels making it safe for consumption.
When we reap our ackees, we usually discard the unripe, unopened pods that fall amongst the mature, opened ones. But one day, I observed a neighbour of ours set aside those unripe ackee pods that were still attached to parts of the tree branch. He hung these broken branches (with unripe ackee attached) unto the fence, and when the pods opened naturally a few days later, he cooked them.
I watched for him to become ill from ackee poisoning, but he didn’t. Needless to say, I still throw all unopened ackee pods away – branch and all. Ackee poisoning is also known as the “Jamaican vomiting sickness syndrome”, it can result in death.