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Bixa orellana

Annatto Kesumba Bixaceae


Bixa orellana, Annatto, Kesumba

Annatto (Bixa orellana )
Plant family: Bixaceae (a family with only two representatives in South America).
Origin: South America.
Used plant part: Dark red seeds (about 3 mm diameter).
Sensoric quality: Annatto has a weak, perfumed odour.
Use: is currently mostly in use as a flavouring and food colouring in Central and Northern South America. In the Caribbean, the seeds are usually fried in (animal or vegetable) fat; after discarding the seeds, the then golden-yellow fat is used to fry vegetables or meat. By this procedure, a golden yellow to golden brown colour is achieved. Mexican cooks often use a paste (achiote) of annato seeds with some preservatices (acetic acid) that dissolves completely in hot fat; it is easy to use and can also be added to marinades and sauces to improve the colour.
The original Aztec drinking chocolate (see also vanilla) is reported to have contained annatto seeds as well; given their high fat content, this is entirely plausible. Using annatto to deepen the colour of chocolate was common in Europe until the 17th century.
By Spanish influence, annatto also has made its way to South East Asia. On the Philippines, the seeds are often ground to a powder and added to soups and stews; meat is often marinated with annatto-coloured seasonings. The colour obtained hereby is brownish-yellow, less vibrant than the colour resulting from usage of annatto oil in the Caribbean.
Main use of annatto nowadays is as a food colour, E160b