These little bugs, when processed, give us carmine and cochineal extract, and the magic ingredient here is carminic acid. This is what gives that gorgeous red hue to a bunch of stuff, from your favorite strawberry yogurt to those candies you can’t resist.
The process of harvesting carmine is incredibly labor-intensive, passed down through generations. Catalina Carmona degante learned it from her grandmother when she was just four years old.
The vibrant red hue of carmine colored the very fabric of history. It illuminated medieval manuscripts, gave depth to paintings by the Old Masters, and colored the robes of royalty from the Aztecs to British monarchs.
While traditional artisans and chefs still seek out Carmona’s carmine, she can no longer fill large orders from international buyers. Peru now dominates over 80% of cochineal production, able to produce it more cheaply.