When I first came upon this magnificent specimen, I thought it was a most unusual flower. Then I realized it was a group of seed pods opening up in a very flashy way. I’ve had it on good authority from produce specialist Elizabeth Schneider and garden blogger/food writer Leslie Land that these little red seeds bursting forth are indeed annatto.
It’s an odd delight for a city girl to come upon an item she usually buys in a specialty grocery store. Although I love the golden color and earthy flavor of annatto seeds, I don’t use them often in recipes since they are not widely known beyond Hispanic kitchens.
That’s a shame because it’s so easy to make annatto oil: just steep the seeds in some olive oil and warm the mixture over low heat for about 20 minutes, then strain out the seeds. Use the annatto oil to enrich the flavor and color of pilafs and to transport the taste of the tropics to an urban kitchen.
Quite by chance, I ran across the following observation by Antoine de Saint-Exupery: “There is but one victory that I know is sure, and that is the victory that is lodged in the energy of the seed.”