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Bixa orellana. A tree found in tropical America, characterized by cordate leaves and spinose, seed-filled capsules; a yellowish-red dye obtained from the pulp around the seeds is used as a food coloring.



(Bixa orellana), a tall shrub or small tree of the family Bixaceae. The alternate leaves are cordate-ovate. The large, five-parted flowers are in terminal panicles. The fruit is a polyspermous bivalve capsule. The annatto is native to tropical America. It has been cultivated for a long time in tropical countries of the Old and New Worlds to obtain an orange dye, also known as annatto. The dye is obtained from the fleshy outer covering of the seeds and is used mainly to color butter, margarine, cheese, and similar food products. Indians used the dye as body paint. The annatto is also used as a hedge and as a windbreak.

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Annato oil has a soothing topical effect, making it useful in after-sun products, but it is also rich in carotenoids, and can be used as a natural colouring agent in creams and sun tanners.
We take a simpler tack, serving the roast chicken--colored deep red by the ground annato seeds in the achiote paste--on a bed of the sauteed onions.