Thursday, March 26, 2009

Bixa orellana, Annatto

Bixa orellana 
 showing flowers and decorative seed pods
Pick up an old copy of National Geographic Magazine and you are likely to see pictures of Amazon Indians with their bodies decorated in bright red 'paint' made from the seeds of the Bixa tree, a native to central and southern America. It is still cultivated by the Ecuadorian Siona Indians. The plant also made the journey to the Philippines taken there by the sea-faring Spanish and to Timor by the Portugese. Bixa seeds yield the spice annatto called achuete in Philipino where it is used to colour the beef stew kari-kari. Seeds can be fried in oil if you are making a paella or other rice dishes.Though tropical in origin Bixa is hardy in most warm temperate climates and will tolerate light frost. It requires adequate water over summer and will grow to about 3 to 5 metres in height.

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