Belize Creole Proverb- NYE Edition

For more proverbs and posts about Belizean Culture click here.

Wood ready for the fire.

“Creole (Kriol): Ol(d) firewood no hard fo ketch.

Literally: Old firewood catches fire easily.

Meaning: When old companions fall out, they quickly become friends again. This saying is especially applied to lovers.”

Have a safe and fun New Years Eve. Share a drink with an old friend and enjoy the night!

Guests enjoying a night by campfire.

From: Creole Proverbs of Belize Collected By Colville N. Young, D.PHIL

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The Annato Tree: Friend or Foe?

The Annato Tree at Lower Dover.

The Annato is a fascinating tree, and chances are you have consumed a by-product of the seeds at some point in your life. This will be a three part series, the first of which focuses on what foods the Annato can be found in, and it’s sometimes allergenic component.

The Annato Tree along the medicinal plant trail at Lower Dover.

The Annatos’ structure and large white flowers make it look very similar to the North American Magnolia Tree. The Annato is 2-8 m / 6-26 feet tall, has several short, dark brown branches that serve as the trunk, dark green leaves and a rounded shaped crown.  The Annato seed pods are covered with soft, stiff hairs.  When mature, the pods split open exposing rusty red seeds that are harvested, ground to a pulp and used in many useful ways.  Grown all over the tropics for its rich, tasty and colorful seeds, it has different names all over the world.  Other common Belize names for this unique shrub are the Lipstick Tree and Mayan name, Kuxub.  Mexico and many other Latin American countries refer to it as Achiote. The French name is Rocou or Roucou. The Mandarin Chinese call it Yan Zhi Shu. In the Philippines, it goes by the name Atsuete, and in India, it’s known as Sindoor. Its scientific name is Bizaceae Bixa Orellan.

The Annato seed pods.

Up close of the Annato seed pods

The Annato seed pulp is the primary ingredient in the Belizean spice called, Recardo, and used in many Belizean stewed dishes.

The Recardo Belizean Spice a by-product of the Annato seed.

The Annato gives foods a wonderfully delicate smokey. It also adds a deep rusty yellow to redish-orange color, and is a low cost substitute for the much more expensive Spanish Saffron. It’s also commonly used as a natural food coloring in processed foods.  This “natural” description is the reason for Annatos’ increased use worldwide as a food ingredient since it has replaced many synthetically manufactured food dyes and artificial flavorings.

Friend or Foe?

Natural ingredient does not necessarily mean problem free. Although it is a popular natural food colorant, Annato has been linked to many cases of food-related allergies.  For many people suffering from skin rashes, gastrointestinal problems like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), respiratory or cardiac abnormalities, Annato may be the cause! Lactose intolerance is a popular self-diagnosis but it might be the Annato in the cheese or flavored creamer.
Just like those folks whom are allergic to peanuts and nuts, Annatos’ chemical defense against its seeds being eaten in the wild can trigger adverse reactions in some people.

People are unaware of Annato as an ingredient in so many processed foods. On food labels in North America, its ingredient name may be listed as bixin, bixa arellana, or bixa orellana, bixaceae, annatto, achiote or included in the term “natural” food flavoring or coloring.

Annato Seeds.

Foods Containing Annato: partial list
Yellow cheeses, including American and Velvetta cheese
Some white cheeses
Most butters
Most Crackers (include Goldfish & Cheez-its): Triscuits are Annato free.
Most dry cereals (including Cheerios):  Rice Krispies are Annato free
Bottled/Commercial salad dressings
Ice cream: Usually light colors like vanilla, butter pecan, chocolate chip
Ice cream cones
Some yogurts
Coffeemate and Cremora
Prepared mustard based dips and spreads: French’s and Heinz mustards are Annato free
Medications: Capsules with coloring
Rice noodles in Thai, Chinese food
Chicken bouillon, cubes only
Crystal Light drink mixes
PAM with butter: Original PAM is Annato free
Herbed butter and garlic butter spreads
Knorr dry mixes (e.g. Spanish rice)
Popcorn: microwave and theatre
Organic Coloring Agent or “Color added”  ingredient on labels
Italian, Garlic and Herb Bread spreads
“Rubs” barbeque seasonings used to flavor chicken and ribs
Custards
Matzo ball mix (some)
Some prepared weight loss program meals
Toddler foods, including yogurt, & some dried fruit bars
Toddler vitamins
Heinz Little Kids Wholegrain Cereal bars – Apple & Cinnamon, Apricot
Fruit bars and dried fruit: Apricot Delight and apricot fruit bars in particular
Corn nuts with seasoning
Smoked fish
Fruit Juice drinks
Rice seasoning packaged mixes
Girl Scout Cookies: Lemon in particular
Packaged powdered donuts and other prepared pastries and cookies
Cheddar Rice Cakes
Packaged Spanish rice mix
Rice Noodles, Pad Thai & Chinese rice noodle packaged meals: Pure rice is Annato free.
Crumbed chicken and fish products, like nuggets and fingers
Artificial crab meat
Salmon burgers
Some frozen potato products (fries, hashed browns, etc.)
Sugar-free Jello
Barbeque Rubs
“Artificial color” could have Annatto. In the USA, manufacturers do not have to list Annatto as an ingredient as it is organic.

At Lower Dover, learning about the chemical nature of plants on Medicinal Jungle Trails  make your visit here memorable and entertaining.  The Annato is a favorite stop for most people as it’s widely used and yet quite unknown. Think about how you feel when you eat some of the above listed processed foods and consider how the Annato’s chemical defense is effecting you.

References:

Forsyth, Adrian and Ken Miyata. Tropical Nature: Life and Death in the Rain Forest of Central and South America. Simon and Schuster, 1995.

Harris, Kate. Trees of Belize. Benque, Belize; BRC Printing, 2009.

ANNATTO: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions and Warnings. WebMD. 1999-07-30.
What’s Up With Food Dyes?. Healthy Recipe Doctor. WebMD. 2010-07-09.
An Allergy to Goldfish? Highlighting the Labeling Laws for Food Additives. U.S. National Library of Medicine. December 1, 2009. PMC 2805955.

Helpful Links:

Annatto and IBS: Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology.

IBS no more: Annatto Food List.

Animals of Lower Dover Jungle Lodge : Iguana

All along the Belize River, it is common to encounter large iguanas sunning themselves high in trees over hanging the river. The most common trees to find these prehistoric creatures are figs, but not the Newton variety, the wild strain. These trees provide abundant fruit for iguanas to eat along the Belize River edge, especially between San Ignacio and Lower Dover Jungle Lodge. There are two extremely large fig trees along Big Barton Creek near the rear of our property on the bird watching trail.

Fig Trees at Lower Dover Jungle Lodge with Dog Lassie : photo by CarolineDixeyPhotography

Iguanas also sun themselves in fig trees, because as a reptile, they need help in regulating their body temperatures. During a recent 1/2 day canoe trip from the Spanish Lookout ferry to Lower Dower, our guests spotted over 20 of the iguanas lounging along the Belize River. Even the iguanas were trying to get a tropical tan in Belize over Christmas break.

Iguana near Belize River canoeing from Lower Dover Jungle Lodge

When walking on the nature trails at Lower Dover Jungle Lodge, lucky guests have twice encountered iguanas in their native habitat with a little help from one of our dogs named Lassie.  Another reason to always have your camera ready while hiking the jungle trails at Lower Dover.

Iguana seen hiking on jungle trails at Lower Dover Jungle Lodge

Iguana-On Front Porch at Lower Dover in Belize

I was wrong…Belikin Sorrel Stout is the best beer in Belize

3 Amigos: Belikin Stout, Regular, and Holiday Sorrel Stout

Earlier this month I wrote a story about the beer in Belize. Belikin produces all 4 different styles and brands the beer in the country, in addition to importing Guinness and Smrinoff Ice. Belikin Regular and Stout are standard at nearly every bar. Belikin Premium is produced in a larger bottle, and caries a larger cost, unjustifiable for the additional quality of the beer. Belikin also produces Lighthouse Lager which is the only beer in Belize served in a green bottle.

2 More Beliken Sorrel Stouts Please

Recently, Belikin decided to produce a limited run holiday beer named Sorrel Stout, after the beer’s key ingredient Sorrel, a herbaceous bush grown locally and used in many holiday treats. Belikin Sorrel Stout is in a class all by itself as far as taste and quality for Belize beer. Sorrel Stout was such as big hit that it lasted only 10 days on retail shelves in Belize before selling out of its limited run on December 13th! Luckily we were able to snag a case and l can tell you first hand that it was delicious!

3 Amigos: Belikin Stout, Regular, and Holiday Sorrel Stout

Word is more Sorrel Stout is on the way. A second batch is being brewed as I type with 3,500 cases in planed total. Great news if you ask me! Lower Dover Jungle Lodge can’t get enough… Enjoy a beer shooting a game of billiards in the evening after a day of touring the on site Mayan ruins!

Pool table at Lower Dover Jungle Lodge Belize

A special note from Lower Dover: Sorrel is a laxative and we found out the hard way… after serving pitchers of sorrel juice to the students digging with BVAR archaeology group in the summer. Make sure you tell your friends to enjoy Sorrel responsibly for multiple reasons!