Coming to Nicaragua, I felt like I had eaten a large range of veggies and fruits, but the variety cultivated here on the farm alone blew me away. One of the new fruits I have since been introduced to was the ackee. Although ackee is a fruit it is most eaten in savory dishes. Another interesting veggie we eat a lot here on the farm is chaya or tree spinach. The other night we had them in a scramble to go with our perfunctory beans and rice. It was very tasty and potentially deadly. Both of these foods have the potential to be toxic if not prepared correctly.
Chaya is a good source of protein, vitamins, calcium, and iron; and is also a rich source of antioxidants. However, raw chaya leaves are toxic as they contain a glucoside that can release toxic cyanide. Chaya or Tree Spinach, is a large, fast growing leafy perennial shrub that is believed to have originated in the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico. Chaya is found from northern Mexico to Guatemala and cultivated as far south as Peru. It plays a major role in our diet here on the farm.
Ackee fruit is a good source of stearic, linoleic, and palmitic acids. It has no saturated fat or cholesterol. A 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. While beautiful in appearance the ackee is not as harmless as it seems. Toxic Hypoglycemic Syndrome, caused by consuming the immature fruit, is associated with severe disturbances in carbohydrate and lipid metabolism. Clinical features of the illness include vomiting, abdominal pain, depletion of hepatic glycogen, hypoglycemia, aciduria, coma and in severe cases death.