Cochineal is a red dye with important historical context. Native to Central and South America, Cochineal is a parasitic scale insect that thrives on the Prickly Pear cactus. It was "discovered" by Spanish explorers in the 15th century and brought to Europe where it quickly became the hottest color for those that could afford it's high price tag. At a time it was the most valuable import, for it allowed dyers to create rich scarlet and crimson reds, previously unattainable with plant based red dyes. Of course, indiginous American cultures have known about Cochineal's powerful red dye for thousands of years, and they continue to cultivate Cochineal for modern textile, cosmetic and food applications.
Raw Cochineal must be ground prior to using and steeped in boiling water to extract the color.