PUNTOITALY No31 - July 2022

TRAVEL NOTES Cultivation of cocoa Cocoa is the name of the seed of a tree native to Central America. It is widespread in many Latin American regions such as Mexico, Colombia, Brazil and Peru. It is also cultivated in Africa and in tropical islands. It thrives in constantly warm and humid climates. In Ecuador, the plantations are numerous, and they obtain a product recognized throughout the world for its peculiar quality. The first cultivations date back to the seventh century DC thanks to the Mayan people. In 1753, the Swedish scientist Carl von Linnè baptized the ingredient as Theobroma Cacao, that is, the food of the gods. In ancient times, the seeds were also used as a currency. When the Aztecs conquered the Mayan territories around 1200, the cocoa seed became a tax tribute. The tree has a medium height, with green leaves and large white flowers streaked with pink. It starts to produce fruit around its fourth or fifth year of life. It reaches the maximum of its production capacity around its twelfth year, maintaining it for twenty or thirty years, sometimes more. Then it starts all over again with a new plantation. The flowering buds start on the trunk and they remain active even after the leaves fall. They turn into fruits (cocoa pods) and, once they are ripe, they are oval shaped and 12-15 cm long. The external colour of the pods can vary from yellow to red, from green to brown. It can also be a mixture of these colours. However, they all turn brown when they reach perfect ripeness. The skin of the fruit is woody and inside there are 24 to 40 seeds, sometimes more. Even the seeds are oval shaped, somewhat flattened like coffee beans. On average, they are 2 centimetres long and 1,5 cm wide. They have a reddish-brown colour and are wrapped in a white membrane-pulp, fragrant and with a sweet taste. The locals consume it and I have created a sorbet with this delicious ingredient. Photo by Jenni Miska on Unsplash 66