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From Tree to Treat

This article first appeared in the 11/1/19 edition of the Davis Enterprise.

From Tree to Treat

Cocoa pod growing at the trunk of the cocoa tree at the Maison du cacao, Guadeloupe. Photo author Pkraemer, obtained from Wikimedia Commons.

From Tree to Treat

 

By Sara Thompson

Special to the Enterprise

 

 

Halloween is over and now many of us have bags of candy either collected or leftover at our doors from a night of trick-or-treating.  Some of the most popular treats for Halloween have chocolate in them.  Where does chocolate come from and how do we turn it into the tasty morsels we all know and love?

 

Chocolate actually comes from a plant, the cocoa tree.  Cocoa trees thrive in tropical area where it is hot and rainy, preferring areas within 20 degrees of the equator.  Cocoa beans ripen and are harvested throughout the year.  Beans grow inside and are protected by pods, which has a rough and leathery casing that can be up to 1.25 inches thick.  When ripening, a pod transitions between various color shades.  They are typically green when immature, red or purple while ripening, and are a yellow or orange when fully mature.

 

Once the pods are ripened, they are harvested and opened up exposing the beans.  Each pod can have up to 30-40 beans.  When opened, the beans and the surrounding pulp are harvested, with the externa rind of the pod being discarded.  The beans and pulp are laid out to dry for several days.  The pulp will liquefy and slough off the rest of the beans during this drying period.  It is important for all the pulp to come off the beans as it may result in ruining the remaining beans by causing their taste to be too bitter and unpalatable, and it also makes it more susceptible to fungal growth.

 

Once the beans are separated from the pulp and are dried, they are roasted in a factory, and then deshelled.  Some of the resulting “nibs” are packaged as is to be used as a snack, but most are ground and separated into cocoa power and butter. Most manufacturers use the cocoa butter, mixed with sugar and other ingredients, to make the chocolate bars we enjoy.  It can take up to 400 cocoa beans to make 1 lb. of chocolate.

 

 

 

Explorit's coming events:

 

 

  • Explorit’s Nature Bowl team is now enrolling for the school year.  This is an afterschool science team from students grades 3-6.  Call (530) 756-0191 to register.  The $25 fee covers weekly meetings and a t-shirt.

 

 

  • It’s not too early to think about the holidays.  A great gift would be an Explorit Membership for your friends and family.  For more information or to purchase or renew your membership visit www.explorit.org/join/membership-levels or call Explorit at 530-756-0191.  Buy now as membership prices increase January 1, 2020.
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