COCOA - THE PLANT AND THE FRUIT
('Cacau – a planta e o fruto')
The cocoa seedlings are sown in nursery beds before being transferred to the plantation. Even the seedlings themselves look delicious – just like chocolate but without the wonderful aroma.
Seedling of the cocoa tree
The cocoa tree (“cacaueiro”) belongs to the mallow family which comprises of approximately 20 species. These are evergreen plants and small trees which grow in the undergrowth of the rain forests of Latin America. Although the tree can reach heights of up to 15 metres, it is cut back to about 4 metres on the plantations. It likes high humidity: an average annual rainfall of about 2,000mm and requires mean annual temperatures of between 25C and 28C. Quite a demanding character!
Poster illustrating the cocoa seedling in its different stages of development
Cocoa actually owes its botanical name “Theobroma Cacao L” (Greek: theos = God, broma = food i.e. “Food of the Gods“) to the Swedish naturalist Carl von Linne.
THE COCOA TREE
Moving around in the shady cocoa plantation means adopting a stooping posture. The cocoa tree is a long, thin tree which grows in the shade of larger tropical trees. The leaves of banana plants give the perfect protection. As we are in the tropics, it is not only hot but also very humid.
In the shade of the cocoa tree
The cocoa plant is a botanical peculiarity. The fruits grow directly on the trunk; a phenomenon occurring in few other plants. It is an evergreen and the fruits grow the whole year round, taking about 6 months to mature. A healthy, mature tree produces several dozen fruits annually.
Cocoa tree laden with fruit
Cocoa tree with fruit
On the cocoa plantation
Cocoa trees require lots of shade. This is provided by banana plants and other tropical trees
THE COCOA FRUIT
('O fruto do cacaueiro')
The differing colours of cocoa fruits are characteristic of both variety and degree of ripeness. This makes it difficult for the novice to determine variety. For cocoa production worldwide, the three most important types are “Criollo”, “Forasteiro” and “Trinitario” with their corresponding varieties and hybrids.
Cross-section of a Cocoa Pod
The pod is a woody, leathery, cucumber-shaped fruit measuring approximately 25 cm in length. The skin of the pod is about 1 cm thick. Depending on the size, each fruit encases 25 to 50 cocoa seeds or beans, arranged in 5 columns and embedded in a white, fruity-sweet, delicious flesh.
Mature Cocoa Fruit
THE COCOA FLOWER
('A flor do cacaueiro')
The cocoa tree first produces flowers at the age of 2 to 3 years. It flowers several times a year and simultaneously produces fruits. The beautiful, bright, red and white flowers resemble orchids. Cocoa flowers are pollinated not by bees but by tiny flies, almost invisible to the naked eye.
Cocoa Flowers (Macro: the flowers have a diameter of approximately 1 cm)
Each plant produces thousands of flowers but only 5% of them are successfully pollinated. On the plantation the flowers are artificially pollinated in order to increase the productivity of the trees.
Artificial pollination of a cocoa flower with tweezers
Artificial pollination of a cocoa flower
With a steady hand, Osmundo carefully transfers pollen from the anthers of one flower to the stigma of another with a pair of tweezers. The pollinated flower is then covered for a few days to protect it. “A few of us have received special training for this” explains Osmundo, bursting with pride.
Cover protecting pollinated flowers
|PEOPLE OF THE FARM, I
('Pessoas da fazenda, I')
The Four Plantation Foremen
Zé Alberto, foreman, is responsible for 10 fields of cocoa and 20 workers, in the background, the cocoa plantation
Joselito, domestic servant and caretaker ('caseiro')
After washing by the river ...
Farm Children ('crianças da fazenda'). After school it is time for homework! Well, more or less
At the farm school the day always begins with a song
Long live the “dummy”!
Son of a farm worker