This isn't one of your usual suspects, such as a king-sized habanero pepper or a stale refried-bean burrito at a cheap Mexican restaurant. The lethal weapon is akee, the national fruit of Jamaica. Don't worry: Eat the akee and be happy. Just make sure to eat a ripe one; even a small portion of unripe akee can cause serious illness or even death.
The akee is one of a hundred exotic fruits on display at the seventh-annual Tropical Fruit Festival this Saturday, where thousands of visitors are expected to pack the gardens and auditorium of Mounts Botanical Garden in West Palm Beach in search of the wildest denizens of the exotic fruit world.
Expect to see (and taste) such quirky fruit as the amazing jackfruit, which can weigh up to 100 pounds; Central America's caimito, which contains the most antioxidants of any fruit; Mexico's black sapote, also called the chocolate pudding fruit, since it contains neither cholesterol nor sugar yet tastes like chocolate; and Brazil's cashew apple, the fruit that bears the cashew nut. More common but no less fruity entries include star fruit, papaya, guava, mango, avocado, and coconut.
Started by Palm Beach County Agricultural Extension Agent Gene Joyner in 1996, the festival is organized by the Palm Beach County chapter of the Rare Fruit Council International, a group whose sole mission is to promote and further the cultivation and use of tropical and rare fruit.
The festival features free samples while supplies last, a workshop about making wine out of tropical fruit, and a demonstration by two chefs from the Four Seasons Resort in Palm Beach on how to use rare fruit for gourmet salads, entrées, and desserts.
You can also shop the dozens of tropical fruit-growers stands to the soothing sounds of island rhythm and steel-drum music and take some of the exotic specimens home with you. And if you don't buy any akees, they'll waive the background check.