Annatto Seed (whole)
Annatto seeds are small, indented, pyramid-shaped seeds with a powdery, red-oxide-like covering. The flavor is mild, somewhat peppery and earthy.
Reddish-brown paste or powder ground from annatto seeds has an earthy flavor. Used primarily in Latin American dishes like mole sauce, cochinita pibil, and tamales.
The popularity of natural colors in processed foods has made annatto a common ingredient, replacing many of the artificial colors that some people are allergic to.
Annatto is essential for making achiote paste, a South American seasoning that is rubbed onto meat, particularly chicken, before cooking. To make achiote paste; blend equal parts annatto, oregano, cumin seed, black peppercorns and whole allspice. Grind finely and add sufficient water to create a paste. Store in the freezer then to season meat, mix paste with garlic, salt and vinegar to taste and rub onto meat and allow to marinate for 30 minutes before cooking.
Mix 1 /2 Cup Annatto Seed and 1 cup vegetable oil. Over very low heat simmer 10 minutes, strain out seeds, refrigerate. Use to impart red color and pungent flavor to rice or polenta, for frying chicken or fish, and braising pork or beef for enchiladas.
Other Common Names: Achiote, Achuete, Bija, Latkhan, Roucou, Lipstick Tree, Urucu, Natural Colour E1606.
Botanical Name: (Bixa orellana)
Nutritional Information: Annatto seed contains beta-carotene and vitamin C, which are both potent antioxidants that help to prevent free-radical damage to the cells and DNA. The seeds are thought to have diuretic, antibacterial and astringent properties, and may additionally ease digestive discomforts, including indigestion, flatulence, nausea, and constipation.
Researchers discover Annatto
A natural food additive that blocks skin cancer cells and is so much better than sunscreen.
It would appear that Annatto - which was used by ancient tribes as body paint, contains a compound that prevents the formation of cancer cells caused by ultraviolet radiation.
The compound in question is called bixin, and it was discovered as part of tests looking for molecules to activate the body's Nrf2 pathway, which helps strengthen human cells against exposure to carcinogens.
The discovery was made by a team from the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy where laboratory tests on mice showed much less of a reaction to UV radiation than mice that weren't given Annatto, supporting theory that the compound blocks skin cancer cells by inducing cells to produce protective antioxidants and repair factors.
In effect, cancerous cells are prevented from forming in the first place, rather than coming under attack once they exist. "If you suppress sunburn, you can prevent the formation of cancer. That's the rationale," researchers told the press.
Considering that Annatto is already approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as safe for human consumption, it means there may be fewer regulatory hurdles and ultimately, Annatto could prove a key ingredient of a new super-sunscreen, but one that works from the inside out, rather than being smeared over the skin.
Eventually, foods may have annatto added to protect against skin damage, photoaeging (damage done by UV exposure), and skin cancer. "We know that our compounds can protect against sunburn through a very interesting, novel mechanism," reserachers explained. "It helps cells to mount a stress response that protects them against skin damage by UV light and sunburn."
The research has been published in the journal: Free Radical Biology and Medicine.