Ackee is a yummy, buttery fruit used often in Jamaican cooking.
I bought some yesterday, in the canned vegetable section of No Frills (ie a grocery store known for its rock-bottom prices) for NINE BUCKS! (Compare with 79 cents for a can of beans or tomatoes.)
Is it because they have to be picked at a particular moment of ripeness, and processed carefully to remove the poisonous parts?
Nine bucks. Sheesh. Good thing they’re so delicious.
Now then, cashews: equally delicious, and in my experience, equally demanding. They come covered in a rock-hard shell that needs to be burnt to ash and then chipped off. The shell contains some kind of toxin that is irritating to the skin, and can cause deadly allergies when some people (e.g. me) are exposed to the smoke of the burning.
And yet they cost only slightly more than other, easier-to-process nuts. (Curiously, they cost pretty much the same in Brazil, where they’re grown/processed, as they do in Canada, where they’re only eaten.)
I assume you chose to compare the achee w/ cashews because of the similarities in harvesting and processing. I suspect the price difference is in the demand. I’ve eaten cashews for over 60 years, but I never heard of achee until I read your post. If there were a bigger demand they would likely automate and streamline the production process and the price would go down.
At least here in Panama cashew trees are extremely easy to grow. They are not usually grown in orchards, or even deliberately cultivated, but line the fences and roadsides in many areas. There is a huge abundance of cashew fruits available in many areas, which, like mangos, often goes unharvested. I don’t know how that compares with ackee plants.
My guess would be preservation. Fleshy fruits you have to ship quickly before they rot, or can them. Cashews, though, will last for quite a long time just as they are (at least, as they are when eaten). So you can pile a bunch of cashews in a slow, cheap freight boat that’ll take weeks or months to get where its going, and they’ll be none the worse.
As Chronos said above, it’s a matter of preservation of the ackee (Blighia sapida), as well as the nature of the ripening of the fruit. Cashew toxicity is caused by urushiol, the same toxin in poison ivy, and the effect is a blistering of skin and mucous membranes.Quite easily solved by proper harvesting; the nuts we eat have no issue of toxicity by the time we reach into a can of them.
In comparision, the toxin in unripe ackee fruit and seeds is hypoglycin, which is systemically dangerous. From this site
Pretty serious stuff, enough to cause the FDA to recall canned ackee with concern to contaminated product. It’s a matter of proper harvesting, though. When unripe, the ackee is toxic, a nice defense by the plant to assure that it’s seeds have fully ripened. When ripe, the fruit opens, and the fleshy arils (the part eaten) loose their toxicity, and are safe to eat, though the seeds remain toxic. Here’s a nice rundown of the process, with a photo of the fruit.
Since the fruit is literally busting ripe, it can’t be shipped to ripen later, as with mangoes, or even shipped to be processed elsewhere, as is the case with cashews. It has to be canned quickly for export, and where it grows, Jamaica, and it’s native Africa, the infrastructure has been poor, and commercial development rather slow. Some Agricultural info on the web indicates that it’s being explored, though.
I hope it becomes more available, because it’s incredibly delicious!!! I had it fresh in Jamaica, and there’s nothing like it. It tastes like scrambled eggs, but with a delicate fruityness.Ackee patties are a real treat.