Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Blighia sapida

Before Lindsay and I went to Jamaica this past June, Andrew Blackburn told us that while we were there we had to try the Akee and Saltfish, the national meal of Jamaica. While I did have the chance to try saltfish, akee was not in season when we were there. Akee is the fruit of Blighia sapida (Sapindaceae), an evergreen tree native to Africa but grown throughout the Caribbean islands and in tropical areas around the world. It is the national fruit of Jamaica.

These photos of flowers and maturing fruit were taken in Jamaica in June 2008. The photo below is of a nearly mature akee fruit that we saw in Costa Rica in November 2007.

If ever you come across an akee fruit at this stage, don't eat it! Akee is mature when it turns yellow-orange and splits to expose three shiny black seeds. The seeds are surrounded by fleshy, yellowish arils. Only the arils are edible, and only after being boiled. Eating an unripe akee or parts other than the arils leads to vomiting, seizures, and Japanese vomiting sickness (a fatal hypoglycemia). Apparently it is illegal to bring akee into the US because so many people have died from eating unripened akee.
On this date in 1932, Dorothy Popenoe, the wife of Frederick Wilson Popenoe (who was an agricultural explorer who specialized in South American crops and who was responsible for introducing avocados to American kitchens) died at the age of 33 from eating an unripe akee in Guatemala.
Happy New Year!

1 comment:

Justin R. Thomas said...

Fun stuff, Scott. Though I've never seen "Happy New Year" follow an obituary.

Then again, perhaps that is the best way to say "Happy New Year"; after pointing out the fragility of life and all that we have to be thankful for.

A hearty best to you and yours,