As synonymous to Jamaica as Bob Marley and jerk chicken, the island’s National Dish, Ackee and Saltish, can be found across the island in homes and restaurants, and in most major cities in the world where the Jamaican diaspora resides. An unlikely pair, ackee and saltfish rose to popularity by becoming the ideal ingredients to be served to the slaves by virtue of being nutritional and cheap. The ackee, prepared and eaten as a vegetable, is, in fact, a fruit contained and ripened in a hard red skin which contains toxins that if not handled correctly can be extremely poisonous.
Hailing from the African country of Ghana, the fruit is said to have been brought to Jamaica by Captain Bligh and so introduced to the plantation owners. Salt fish or salted cod, on the other hand, came from Europe and travelled across the sea easily because it was cured; to this day it still comes from overseas but now from Canadian Provinces such as Nova Scotia, New Foundland and Labrador.
Although served predominantly as a meal for breakfast, the smooth creamy flavour of the ackee softens the intense saltiness of the fish and when combined with herbs and seasonings the meal provides a handful of flavours perfect for any time of day. Perhaps that is why the island’s National Fruit is Ackee and the National Dish, Ackee and Saltfish!