Achiote and Anona

While sorting through some photos from Costa Rica, I realized I never shared the last interesting tidbits from our trip to the Bribrí cacao farm on the Caribbean coast. Before we got into the nitty-gritty of making chocolate, we toured the farm to check out some of the other useful plants that grow there. 

First, our guide Priscilla picked a ripe achiote and broke it open to show us the seeds inside:

In English this is known as annatto. When the achiote skin is leathery and brown, it means that the seeds inside are ready to use. The bright red seeds can be dried and crushed to make a reddish-orange spice that is used in many Mexican and Central America recipes. Priscilla explained that the Bribrí people also used it for painting their skin bright red, for keeping cuts clean, and for soothing a sunburn. Tiegan was happy to give that last use a try, as she had just the day before gotten the worst sunburn of her life:

I bought some ground achiote at the shop afterwards, and am planning to experiment with it some time in the fall. Stay tuned.

The other thing Priscilla showed us was a new (to us) fruit growing nearby. To get one for us to try, she  used a long wooden pole with a thick wire loop and burlap bag on the end to grab one from the high branches:

She handed it to Tiegan to hold while she went to get her machete to cut it open:

Priscilla told us the name of the fruit in Bribrí, but didn't know it in Spanish or English. The nearest thing I could find when I looked it up here at home was anona, which in English is known as a "custard apple." In Spanish, anona literally means an anonymous, no-name thing. Most photos of custard apples I've found look different — it's green and the "scales" are much more tightly clustered. Maybe this one is extra-ripe? 

The inside, though, matches the description of a custard apple:

The fruit is soft and white, and really does taste like custard, probably because the texture is very creamy and thick (like a custard). It was really kind of strangely delicious. You spit out the large, black seeds, just like you would with a watermelon.

Jonas wouldn't go near it, but Tiegan and I liked it. We never saw one anywhere else on the trip, so I'm not sure how common this particular tropical fruit is in Costa Rica. We did see a lot of achiote though, and once we started noticing it, we realized just how commonly used that flavoring is (especially on meat). 

And that wraps up our food and produce adventures in Costa Rica. That's a little sad, but we do have lots of new recipes and ideas to try now that we're back at home — one of the best parts about traveling!


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