Cocoa Trees and Bean Processing

bag of fermenting cacao beans with butterflyI love chocolate and had planned on planting some cocoa trees on our property. One of our workers, Mario, seems to be a specialist in gardening. During one of our earlier chats he asked me what types of things I want to plant on the property. I told him I am mostly interested in trees and plants that produce food. He named a number of different plants and I said I want to try all of those and also cocoa. A neighbor up the street has a few cocoa trees so I know they can grow in this area.

The second week Mario worked he showed up with about a dozen cocoa tree saplings and planted them around the perimeter of what will probably be the first vegetable garden area and green house. This area is at the end of the flat part near the living areas and is not affected by all of the construction. I think the place he chose to plant them will be ideal. I was impressed that he built wooden structures around the trees to protect them as they take root.

newly planted cacao treesWord did get out that I like cocoa and several workers have brought cocoa pods to me as gifts. I enjoy eating the sweet, white pulp around the seeds and have been experimenting with different methods to ferment the beans, dry and roast the nibs. This process is incredibly labor intensive. My latest attempt at fermentation is to hang the beans inside cheese cloth. Immediately after hanging the sack many fruit flies, wasps, bees and butterflies showed up to enjoy the sweet juice. Fermentation should take a few days which will be followed by drying in the sun and then cracking and peeling the shell off of the beans to expose the nibs which are then roasted.

cacao beansWe have been eating some of the nibs as snacks. They don’t taste like chocolate, as you know it in a chocolate bar. They have a slightly alkaloid taste and a nutty texture. My latest experiment with the nibs was to use them as a substitute for chocolate chips in cookies. Wow, what a treat that was! At the same time it is very labor intensive to prepare the nibs. I joked that these are $10.00 cookies. Maybe Neiman Marcus would be interested in selling them in their cafĂ©??? For now we are enjoying the powerful effect of the cocoa via the cookie medium. I have a feeling I will come up with many more ways to savor this special fruit.