Bixa orellana

Bixa orellana

Achiote (Bixa orellana) is a shrub or small tree from the tropical region of the American continent. The name derives from the Nahuatl word for the shrub, achiotl. It is also known as Aploppas, and its original Tupi name urucu. It is cultivated there and in Southeast Asia, where it was introduced by the Spanish in the 17th century. It is best known as the source of the natural pigment annatto, produced from the fruit. The plant bears pink flowers and bright red spiny fruits which contain red seeds. The fruits dry and harden to brown capsules.

Characteristics

The inedible fruit is harvested for its seeds, which contain annatto, also called bixin. It can be extracted by stirring the seeds in water. It is used to color food products, such as cheeses, fish, and salad oil. Sold as a paste or powder for culinary use, mainly as a color, it is known as "achiote," "annatto" or "pimentão doce." It is a main ingredient in the Mexican spice mixture recado rojo, or "achiote paste." The seeds are ground and used as a subtly flavored and colorful additive in Latin American, Jamaican and Filipino cuisine. Annatto is growing in popularity as a natural alternative to synthetic food coloring compounds. It is an important ingredient of cochinita pibil, the spicy pork dish made famous in the film Once Upon a Time in Mexico.

Ethnomedical uses

References

  • B. orellana and annatto
  • Van Wyk, Ben-Erik (2005). Food Plants of the World. Portland, Oregon: Timber Press, Inc. ISBN 0-88192-743-0

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