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Annatto Seed

Information for Annatto Seed

Often referred to as Roucou or Achiote, Annatto is a natural plant extract derived from the Achiote tree seeds that grow mostly in the tropical regions of Asia, Africa, and Central America. The Annatto plant bears heart-shaped, hairy fruits tinged in red or brown when matured. As the fruits ripen, they split open revealing dark cherry-colored seeds. The fruit is inedible, however.

The seed covering has an orange flesh which is extracted to produce yellow and orange pigment used to color and flavor food. It is a well-known ingredient in most Caribbean and Latin American cuisines, and also adds a distinctive appeal to an assortment of international dishes.

Basically, Annatto seeds are boiled or grounded in water or oil to prepare the coloring. Also aromatic, Annatto slightly resembles the scent of nutmeg - sweet, peppery and nutty.

The name "Annatto" was coined after Francisco de Orellana, a Spanish explorer. However, the Annatto plant is believed to have originated from Brazil where it was used by ancient tribesmen for body paint, spiritual uses, and medicinal purposes.

As medicine, it is used as a cure-all for heartburn, insect bites, and stomach pains. Food products that have Annatto seed coloring include cheeses, dairy spreads, rice, cereals, baked goods, and even smoked fish.

Photo Credit: annamatic3000
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