Achiote | Annatto
Scientific Name: Bixa orellana
Common Names: Achiote, Annatto, Lipstick Tree
Description: Achiote is a shrub or small tree native to tropical regions of the Americas. It is well-known for its bright red seeds, which are encased in spiky, reddish-brown pods. These seeds are the source of the vibrant red-orange dye and flavoring called annatto, widely used in culinary and cosmetic applications.
Distribution: Achiote is native to the Americas, particularly Central and South America, and is now cultivated in many other tropical regions around the world, including Asia and Africa.
Habitat: Achiote thrives in warm and humid climates with well-drained soil. It can be found in diverse habitats, such as rainforests, savannas, and disturbed areas, and it is often cultivated in home gardens and agricultural fields.
Culinary Use: Achiote seeds are a staple in Latin American and Caribbean cuisines. The seeds are typically ground into a paste or powder and used as a natural food coloring and flavoring agent. Achiote imparts a warm, slightly nutty flavor to dishes and is commonly used to marinate meats, poultry, and fish. It is a key ingredient in traditional dishes such as Mexican achiote paste and Filipino adobo.
Medicinal Use: Achiote has a history of medicinal use in traditional medicine. It is believed to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. The seeds and leaves have been used to treat various ailments, including skin conditions, digestive issues, and respiratory problems.
Fun Fact: Achiote has been used by indigenous cultures for thousands of years as both a dye and a culinary spice. Its vibrant red color has made it popular for body and face painting during traditional ceremonies and celebrations. In the Philippines, it is called "achuete" and is used in various dishes, including the iconic dish "kare-kare," a peanut-based stew. The Lipstick Tree nickname comes from the red dye that can be extracted from the seeds and used as a natural coloring for lipsticks and cosmetics. Achiote's versatility as a dye, flavoring, and medicinal plant has earned it a special place in the cultural heritage and traditional practices of many communities. Its striking appearance, delightful taste, and various applications make achiote a cherished and cherished botanical treasure in the world of herbs and spices.