THE CACAO TREE
Chocolate comes from the cacao tree which is formerly known as Theobroma Cacao. Perhaps its the temperament of this mother tree that gives chocolate some of its intense and exotic taste. Cacao trees flourish only in the hot rainy tropics in a swath 20 degrees north and south of the Equator.
Cacao trees are delicate plants that live in the understory of tropical forests and require other taller trees to protect them from sun and wind. These petite trees top out at 60 feet in the wild although most grow only 20 to 40 feet high. Shielded from wind and sun by hardwoods and other trees that stretch as high as 200 feet. The cacao tree has large glossy leaves that are roughly the size of an outstretched human hand. Young trees have flashy red leaves while mature trees are green.
This showy tree draws other plants to it. Moss and lichens cling to its bark as do small orchids. Theobroma Cacao’s own pink or white blossoms adorn the branches. some of these pretty flowers turn into colorful fruits called pods which are filled with sweet juice and bitter seeds. These seeds are the cocoa beans and form the heart of chocolate.
DID YOU KNOW?
Cacao leaves can move 90 degrees from horizontal to vertical to get the sun and to protect younger leaves.
Also, that flamingos can only eat with their heads upside down.
What a wonderful world!
(to be continued)