Roucou - A Red Affair

Can you recall using roucou as a child? Well I do and it was my curiosity that led me to this strange looking fruit. The fascination with the fruit came when I squeezed it in my hand and my fingers became red. Ah ha blood I thought and at the time my idea was to use it to make fake blood and use it to scare the hell out of my brother and sisters. However that never happened. You see after picking enough to carry out my cleaver plan I headed home to carry out my plan. Well when my mother saw the roucou she advised me to cut them open and add water to it and squeeze the seeds to get the color out. What was happening here? Hmm did my mother read my mind and was going to be part of my plan? No not at all, my mother wanted the red liquid to put in food - What? Indeed the roucou is used to add color to food my friends and with that my plan came to an end. 
The fluid has very good shelf life and is used to add color to pastelles and I have read that it is used to add color to good ole golden ray margarine. The so called red color (to me) when exposed to air really has a slight orange color in the liquid form but the powdered form looks red. It is believed that in the early days the indigenous Carib Indians used roucou to add color to their skin maybe during religious ceremonies or simply to look fierce or they simply thought that is looked good (who knows?) - we can only speculate now. 
The roucou is very interesting and it look like apart from the natural red dye occurring in the plan there appears to be medicinal substances derived from the plant. In some places in the world snake anti-venom is being researched from extracts of the plant. The substance that makes the roucou red is called Bixin or Anatto and as mentioned before is used to color food or even as a body paint. 
The roucou plant has been in Trinidad long before Columbus visited the country and was used by the indigenous people as body paint. I don't know if they used it in their food but residents of Trinidad and people around the world have used the plant in similar fashion. In Trinidad and Tobago the plant is used to create food coloring but has many other uses around the world. I do hope that this short article reminded you of the roucou tree that probably grew in your back yard. Please don't hesitate to leave a comment if you recall using roucou as a child or as an adult. 
I have a link for the site Simply Trini Cooking with step by step guide to making your very own Roucou food coloring. 


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