Everyone knows the goodness of chocolate whether it’s dark, milk or even white. Some people know all about the tree where the cocoa bean comes from – Theobroma cacao, also know as the Cacao Tree, the Cocoa Tree or the Chocolate Tree. I don’t think many people know how magnificent this tree really is in all its splendor. The flowers vary in size and color depending on the variety and region of the tree, just like the cocoa pods. The flowers are absolutely exquisite. They resemble orchids.
Out of all of the flowers on the tree, only 3 out of 1000 flowers actually get pollinated to become the cocoa pod fruit. It takes about 5-8 months for the flower to blossom into the fruit and become a pod. Both the fruit and the flowers are on the tree all year long which is an oddity in the world of fruit producing trees. When you see the Theobroma cacao, you will be surprised that the flowers grow on the main stem, or trunk, of the tree. That’s the only place you’ll find them. Oftentimes they will be waves of flowers covering the entire trunk. It is a sight that will quite literally take your breath away!
Another oddity? Out of all of the flowers on Theobroma cacao, the white flowers never smell. Alan Young, who is a biologist, says that Theobroma cacao have over 400 distinct smells. For comparison purposes, the rose has 14 and an onion has 7. How complex and intricate is that? There are more flowers on the tree at the beginning of the season rather than at the end of the season. Pollination occurs in the morning hours and if it doesn’t happen within 24 hours, the flowers dies. That’s why you never see these gorgeous blossoms at the florist.
Once pollinated, the flowers slowly grow into magnificent pods. They also stay right there were the flower was, right on the trunk. While a pod is growing, it will be green in color. When it is a large ripe pod, however, it will become jewel tones of citrine (yellow), amber (orange), ruby (red) or amethyst (purple), and some stay various shades of green turquoise, emerald and patina copper (green). The pods vary in size, shape and texture depending upon the variety of Theobroma cacao. The size is usually about 10-40 cm when fully mature. Once a pod is ripe, it may be left on the tree for up to three weeks without spoiling. If the pod is too ripe, it won’t open. A sign from nature that its life is over. The sticky pulp inside the cocoa pod is edible. It’s doesn’t taste like cocoa or chocolate though. Some say it tastes like mango. It has the density and texture of an apple. The bean is where the cocoa comes from.
So even though we really only know and appreciate Theobroma cacao for the chocolate and cocoa it provides for us, it’s nice to take the time to appreciate the full tree that really stands out from nature itself in all ways. It provides fruit all year feeding both man and animal, it flowers and bears fruit all year, it’s extremely beautiful with its colorful pods and flowers, and it is different in that the flowers and pods will only grow on the trunk. This is one amazing tree. No wonder so many ancients worshipped the tree and its products and no wonder we are finding that the products from Theobroma cacao are super foods!