Pulchritude: Cacao Tree

Unripe Cacao Pods

Chocolate is one of the most renowned and adored products in the world, though few are familiar with its source of origin, the Cacao Tree. Seeds of the Cacao tree also produce favorites such as cacao nibs, cocoa powder and cocoa butter. The Cacao tree (Theobroma cacao) is native to tropical regions of Central and South America, and typically grows between 13-26 feet tall. Leaves of the Cacao tree can be 10-40 centimeters in length and 5-20 centimeters in width. The flowers of the tree grow on the trunk or old branches and are pollinated by tiny flies. The fruit of the tree, the cacao pod, grows 15-30 centimeters in length and 8-10 centimeters in width. Orange to yellow in color, the cacao pod contains a white pulp and 20-60 seeds. The seeds are the roasted and processed to produce chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, cacao nibs, and various forms of chocolate. Cacao pods were highly valued in Mexico with Aztecs using them as currency. Cacao use in Mexico is believed to date back to at least 1750 BC to various pre-Aztec civilizations.

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