PLANTS OF KENYA
06-09-2021 di redazione
The Bixa Orellana, locally known as 'mrangi', is a shrub belonging to the Bixaceae family.
Native to South America, this small tree was transported by the Spanish from the 17th century onwards to South-East Asia and then to Africa.
This evergreen shrub can grow to a height of around 3 metres and its flowers are white or pink, or a combination of the two.
The fruits are ovoid capsules covered with smooth, soft thorns and are about 4 cm in size, varying in colour from scarlet to deep red; they contain about fifty fleshy, cone-shaped seeds covered in red pulp.
When fully ripe, the pod hardens and opens.
It is a very drought-resistant plant that grows easily in subtropical or tropical climates with good sunshine and humidity all year round.
A natural dye called annatto or achiote is made from its seeds.
Especially in ancient times, one of the main uses of this extract was for body, face and hair painting, which was practised among the various tribes for decorative purposes or to ward off evil spirits and diseases.
This pigment plays an important economic role worldwide as it is one of the most widely used natural dyes for colouring foods, such as cheese, butter or soft drinks, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. It is commonly used in food because the colouring does not alter the taste and is, above all, non-toxic.
Cosmetic products include lipsticks, hair dyes, nail varnish, soaps, lacquers and paints.
Annatto dye, which is red-orange in colour, is rich in carotenoid pigments, 80% being bixin (the red pigment) and norbixin or orellin (the yellow pigment).
The cultivation of Bixa was introduced in the coastal regions of Kenya, particularly in Kwale and Lamu Counties, around the 1970s and in recent years has been giving good results to farmers who have decided to invest in this crop.
Kenya exports about 1 500 tonnes of annatto seeds and extracts every year and is the second largest exporter after Peru.
Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)
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