Did you know Annatto is the seed or extract from the achiote tree?
In St. Lucia and Dominica, it is known as Roucou and the botanical name is Bixa orellana. Roucou/Annatto is a naturally intense dye which can range in color from bright yellow to deep orange. It is also known as the “poor man’s saffron” because it can be used to achieve a similar bright yellow color to saffron and the flavor can be described as earthy, musky, and slightly peppery.
The seeds and pulp have been used for hundreds of years for a variety of purposes. The seeds can be ground into a powder, turned into a paste, or infused into oil. Roucou/Annatto is responsible for yellow butter, margarine, and cheese. Cheddar cheese acquired its classic orange color from annatto in the 1800’s when it was thought that high-quality cheeses were yellow due to higher quality green grass fed to cattle.
Roucou/Annatto is also used as a colorant in many other commercial products such as processed meats, chocolate, fabric, paints, smoked fish, beverages, and a variety of packaged food. Roucou has long been used by American Indians to make a bright red paint for the body and hair.
Achiote trees can be found in the hills in Dennery. I remember my grandmother use to cook with Roucou seeds steeped in oil.
Photo credit: https://en.wikipedia.org
This feature runs every Thursday. It is compiled by daughter of the soil Anselma Aimable, a former agricultural officer and former correspondent for Caribbean Net News, who has a deep interest in local culture and history. Send ideas and tips to [email protected]