Plant Spotlight: Ackee
September 17, 2009
By Dick Dutton, Estates Plant Curator
Ackee, Blighia sapida, Sapindaceae
The Ackee (or Akee) is a native to West Africa but found a new home in Jamaica in the 18th Century. The scientific name, Blighia sapida, is named for Captain William Bligh who took it from Jamaica to England.
The Ackee is related to the Lychee and the Longan and can grow up to 30 feet high. Ackee fruit opens at maturity, with three cream colored arils, each tipped with a black seed. The edible aril is eaten cooked, but must be mature, fresh, and harvested when the fruit opens naturally. Immature arils, overripe arils, the outer rind of the fruit, the pink membrane under the seeds and the seeds are toxic and can be fatal. When harvested and prepared correctly, the arils are delicious and safe to eat. Ackee and saltfish is highly esteemed in Jamaica, where it is the national dish.
There is a mature Ackee tree at the Edison and Ford Winter Estates just inside the entrance gate to the riverside property on the left.