Chocolate: the historical background of the cacao plants origin.

Essay by ravingangel2501University, Bachelor'sA, April 2003

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The Theobroma cacao tree is native to the American tropical rainforest, originating in clumps along the riverbanks in the Amazon basin on the eastern equatorial slopes of the Andes. The plant has evolved to utilize the shade of the heavy canopy from the rainforest. It can grow up to fifteen meters, but the harvesting crops are trimmed down to six meters, so that they are easier to maintain and harvest. They trees can live for up to one hundred years, but the cultivated trees are only economically productive for sixty of those years. The trunk or Chupon is where the budding fruit and leaves are found. The leaves are a fan shape and are smooth in texture with bright green pigments. The tree needs a consistent climate that is never lower than fifteen degrees Celsius and one hundred to two-hundred and fifty centimeters of rainfall distributed evenly throughout the year, with no less than ten centimeters a month.

Two countries in east Africa, Cote D'Ivorie and Ghana, export more than half of the worlds supply commercial cacao.

Unlike most flowering plants, the cacao plant's buds and fruit are found on its trunk. The tree displays flowers all year long, including while the fruits are present, which is highly unusual. The time it takes for the buds to progress from the flowering blossoms to the ripe fruit take anywhere from five to eight months. The cacao buds are pollinated by bats and gnat-like insects called midges. Pollination must occur within twenty-four hours of initial budding, or the flower will die. Pollination usually occurs in the morning. The cacao pods grow very close to the tree and depending on the particular species, they may vary in color, texture, and shape. The ripened fruit can be left on the tree for several weeks...