Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Urucu (Annatto)

You can count on finding the urucu plant (Bixa orellana) around every rural household in the Amazon. Like the use of green onion tops, urucu powder is an essential ingredient in local cuisine; and if you don't have a yard or a piece of farmland, you go to the supermarket or marketplace to buy it. In the powder form, it's called "coloral", which means nothing more than food coloring. The next time you sit down for a meal in this part of the world, you'll notice that the rice and spaghetti are tinged red with coloral. Here at home my wife refuses to buy coloral because our maid/cook goes overboard in the use of it. Salt, too. The attached image is of a urucu plant (shrub/tree) loaded with fruit. The pods are a bright orange/red. When mature, they will be harvested and put out in the sun for a few days to dry. The seeds are then removed and pounded in a mortar and pestle to remove the pulp. This red powder is coloral. Next image, the seeds.

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