5 Things You Need to Know About the Cacao Tree
A walk-in grocery stores or canteen will have you notice the different brands of chocolate and cocoa on the counters and trolleys meant for customers. The sweet smell and flavors from chocolate and cocoa are what most people are attracted to.
However, many shoppers do not know that their favorite treat comes from a tree. Those with an idea barely know enough about this fantastic tree to scratch the surface. This piece will give you insights and enlighten you on things you need to know about this magical tree.
1) Benefits Derived
The cacao tree has pods that are dried to produce cocoa beans. The beans produce cocoa butter and cocoa. The cocoa can be used in its raw version as unsweetened chocolate or mixed with other products to create an array of chocolates such as the white, dark, and milk chocolates. The fruits from the plant can also be eaten raw. However, don’t get it twisted; they do not taste like chocolate. The demand for chocolate has also created jobs and markets for many entrepreneurs, which has increased the growth in economies.
Three different types of trees produce cacao. The commonly used trees are forastero as they are more resilient and more productive. The criollo group has the most expensive pods and quality cacao. They have bumpy skin and are less bitter compared to the rest. The trinitario seeds are minimal as they thrive in particular conditions, unlike the rest but are capable of producing flavorful chocolate.
This tree grows in tropical regions where the climatic conditions have high humidity and regular rainfall. The tree grows approximately 30 feet tall with leaves as long as twelve inches. They are planted together with other taller plants that form a canopy that protects them from direct sunlight. The soil should have proper drainage as it influences the cocoa flavors. These trees take up to 5 years to bear the cocoa fruits in their natural setting, but grafted trees take a shorter time. They produce white flowers and colored fruits that dry up to produce elongated pods.
This tree can be around for a century, but it is only economical and productive half this time. The tree produces about 6000 flowers annually and sheds its leaves annually. The pollination process happens when the insects and animals carry the pollen grains around. Each pod has approximately 50 beans, and a tree can produce several thousand during its lifetime. The cacao is harvested twice a year using sharp blades.
5) Diseases and Pests
Just like other living species, these trees are affected by diseases and pests. The disorders cause pods and the plants to dry out. Others cause them to swell and rot. Nutritional deficiency diseases are also common in poor conditions. Diseases harbor growth and reduce productivity. To minimize the infection from spreading, farmers cut the sick pods and trees from the plantations. They also spray them with fungicides that contain copper and fungicides. They also clear out the excess vegetation to allow sunlight and reduce the humidity.