DefenseThe unripened or inedible portions of the fruit contain the toxins hypoglycin A and hypoglycin B. Hypoglycin A is found in both the seeds and the arils, while hypoglycin B is found only in the seeds. Hypoglycin is converted in the body to methylene cyclopropyl acetic acid . Hypoglycin and MCPA are both toxic. MCPA inhibits several enzymes involved in the breakdown of acyl CoA compounds. Hypoglycin binds irreversibly to coenzyme A, carnitine and carnitine acyltransferases I and II reducing their bioavailability and consequently inhibiting beta oxidation of fatty acids. Beta oxidation normally provides the body with ATP, NADH, and acetyl CoA which is used to supplement the energy produced by glycolysis. Glucose stores are consequently depleted leading to hypoglycemia. Clinically, this condition is called Jamaican vomiting sickness. These effects occur only when the unripe fruit is consumed.
UsesAlthough native to West Africa, the use of ackee in food is especially prominent in Jamaican cuisine. Ackee is the national fruit of Jamaica, and ackee and saltfish is the national dish. ''Ackee and codfish'' is ranked number two in the world by National Geographic survey of national dishes. Recently, ackee wine has been introduced in Jamaica and though it has resulted in a majority of curious and adventurous Jamaicans gravitating towards the newly introduced product it still has not appealed to others.
Ackee was introduced to Jamaica and later to Haiti, Cuba, Barbados and others. It was later introduced to Florida in the United States.
Ackee pods should be allowed to ripen on the tree before picking. Prior to cooking, the ackee arils are cleaned and washed. The arils are then boiled for approximately 5 minutes and the water discarded. The dried seeds, fruit, bark, and leaves are used medicinally.
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