Jamaican Vomiting Sickness

The house where Bev and I are staying is near the northeast edge of Bisbee; it’s a rental house perched halfway up a canyon slope. Former renters often leave imperishable food items behind in the cupboards. This afternoon I was looking for a can of coconut milk in one of the cabinets, as I had a hankering for some Thai food.

I never did find the coconut milk, but I did find a large can containing a food I have never encountered. Have you ever heard of the ackee fruit? It’s a tropical Jamaican fruit and the can looks like this:

I held the can in my hand and pondered it. The expiration date was troubling: July, 2010. After reading about ackees at Wikipedia, I was anxious to see what the fruit tastes like. It’s the state fruit of Jamaica, after all — it has to be at least interesting and intriguing!

I decided that there was no good reason to keep the can around, since the expiration date was so far in the past. I decided to open it and try the fruit. The can wasn’t expanded and bulging, and when the can-opener pierced the lid of the can there wasn’t a disturbing WHOOSH of noisome iridescent gas. Encouraging signs!

I looked at the contents of the can:

Hmm… it looked like fragments of the fruit’s flesh, and they really didn’t look much like the picture on the can’s label. I gingerly tasted a piece of the brined fruit. Not very sweet, but with an unctuous quality rather like the taste and feel of ripe avocado flesh.

Was this flesh ripe, though? I recalled a portion of the Wikipedia article which described problems with canned ackees some years ago. Evidently some cans contained unripe flesh, and that flesh is toxic. The problem was cleared up and canned ackees were allowed to enter the United States in 2005. The condition caused by eating unripe ackee fruit is known as the “Jamaican Vomiting Sickness”.

The fruit in the can seemed ripe. Surely in the period between 2005 and 2010 the Jamaican cannery folks had perfected the technique of canning safe ackee fruits. Then an image arose in my mind — a dreadlocked Rastafarian cannery worker with a joint dangling from his lip as he casually sorted achee fruit while listening to a tape of Bob Marley blasting away in the background.

Surely not!

I ate a couple more fragments of ackee (it certainly tasted ripe!) and decided to call it a day. Bev refused to try it at all, but she tends to be rather picky about expiration dates, spoilage, and such matters.

I’ll report back on the results of my experiment with a new tropical fruit. Perhaps I’d better put the open can in the refrigerator!



1 Comment

Filed under Essays and Articles, Food, Photos

One response to “Jamaican Vomiting Sickness

  1. bev

    hahahahahahaha!! I’m waiting to see if you make it through the night before I give those ackee a try! (o:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s