Annatto, sometimes called Roucou, is a derivative of the achiote trees of tropical regions of the Americas, used to produce a red food coloring and also as a flavoring. It scent is described as "slightly peppery with a hint of nutmeg" and flavor as "slightly sweet and peppery".
Annatto is produced from the reddish pulp which surrounds the seed of the achiote (Bixa orellana L.). It is used in many cheeses (e.g., Cheddar, Red Leicester, and Brie), margarine, butter, rice, smoked fish and custard powder.
Annatto is commonly found in Latin America and Caribbean cuisines as both a coloring agent and for flavoring. Central and South American Natives used the seeds to make a body paint, and lipstick. For this reason, the achiote is sometimes called the lipstick-tree.
In Cuba and other Caribbean islands, both fruit and tree are popularly called Bija (pronounced bee-ha) instead of Bixa.
References and Sources for Further Reading
- The Herb Book, John Lust (Bantam Books, New York, USA, 1984)
- Cooking With Spices, Carolyn Heal & Michael Allsop (David & Charles, Vermont, USA 1983)
- The Book of Spices, F. Rosengarten Jr. (Livingston Publishing Co. , Penn., USA, 1969)