Monday, July 9, 2012

Chocolate and the Pinhead Fly

All of us know where chocolates come from. But i am sure not many of us know how the plants producing chocolates look like. These plants grow best in the tropical climate, mostly because they came from the South American jungle said to be cultivated by the Mayans and Olmecs about 3,000 years ago. It spread to Central America and around the world and we got our share of plants in our small property in the province. We have both the purple and green variety. However, they are not properly cared for now and diseases already set in as soil borne organisms. They still bear fruits but not able to mature fully well. I very well remember when we were kids that we help our maternal grandmother gather the seeds from the pods to be dried. Sometimes, we even eat the sweet mucilage from the seeds. When the dried pods are ground and molded to round home-made chocolates we call 'tabliya', we even help our grandmother roll it in porcelain cups so they will be finely coated and have smooth, shiny appearance. 


During the dry season, a very conspicuous plant which produces young leaves are the cacao trees. They are long, wide and very colorful. When the rains come they are already green ready for manufacturing its own food, and the young fruits are also ready to develop.


young shoots have pinkish colors turning light green during maturation

 individual leaves are about 2 ft in length but shorten in mature growths

 Flowers arise in all parts of stems and older branches. This type of flowering habit is scientifically called cauliflory.

 two flowers in full bloom in above photo

Minute flies called midges, the size of a pin head, are the only insects that can pollinate cacao flowers! Their size distinctly fits the morphology of cacao flowers, and help them bear fruits. Now we know we should be grateful to the flies.

 A young pod will mature in about 6 months, these pods are full of seeds eventually made into chocolates.

Flowers and pods have different stages of maturity, so pods ripen at different times, and harvesting is done many times throughout the year. 




Now, can you visualize the chocolate? 



Outdoor Wednesday: Click on the picture below to learn more...

28 comments:

  1. I had never seen the flowers or known much about them...fascinating plant and wow 6 months to wait for the pod. It is a remarkable plant in all aspects

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. yes Donna, actually i just learned about the pollinators just because i will be posting this, haha, now i got you!

      Delete
  2. Cocoa fruit also make a nice drink!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. how do you do that ladyfi? Can you teach me?

      Delete
  3. This is one of my favorite plants to see out in the wild. I love sucking the fruit off around the seed. They produce some interesting pods off the bark. Very unusual....but fitting for such a wonderful treat:)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Kreesh, now we shared something in common, sucking the sweetness out of cacao seeds!

      Delete
    2. Exactly!!! Love the white fruit around the seed! Best part:)

      Delete
  4. What a great post! I love the way the flowers just come right out of that trunk!

    ReplyDelete
  5. The only time I ever see a real cacao fruit was during a school trip to a cocoa plantation and processing plant. So it is the flies who are doing the important job of pollinating the flowers. I'd love to have a taste of home made tabliya.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Maybe there are available 'tabliya rounds' in supermarkets. We have a lot here. I cannot post it this time, heavy!

      Delete
  6. Thanks for this informative blog. Interesting. Am a chocolate fan.

    ReplyDelete
  7. aloha,

    great post, very well chronicled and i love the pics....i would love to hear about the drinks to...although typically here we let the pods ferment and the juice drained and used for a variety of purposes inluding juices, sauces, etc.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh you mean the fermentation juices can still be used to something useful? That is great.

      Delete
  8. I cannot visualize my delicious chocolate coming from this fruit but found your explanation and pictures to be fascinating nonetheless. Also about how the flowers are pollinated. Very neat! The leaves even remind me of cocoa!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes Tina it is really fascinating. All seeds are oily and because the pods are full of seeds a pod is very productive in producing the oily chocolate. It is basically a pod full of raw chocolate! Exciting isn't it.

      Delete
  9. Yummy! Very good information. Thanks.
    Love your blog name!

    ReplyDelete
  10. thanks for your comment on my blog. We also get a lot of bugs on the pigeon peas for some reason. Some of the cane farmers in our area switching over to growing cacao - great photos!

    ReplyDelete
  11. An extraordinary insight into the source of my beloved chocolate! Love these macros!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Gemma for dropping by. I am amazed at the number of your blogs, it gave me sometime thinking which to open, till i finally opened 2 and still not able to comment.

      Delete
  12. Amazing close-up of leaves....Joyce M

    ReplyDelete
  13. Wonderful photos. I really like these leaves and flowers of cacao.
    PS: The translator or blog is below the Virtual Gallery and above Followers panel.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I am calling by today as another Outdoor Wednesday participant. A great series of photos of cocoa plants.

    ReplyDelete
  15. How interesting. I have often wondered if these plants would do well as a (producing) houseplant, but I guess one would need that insect too. GREAT pictures.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Wonderful sequence of shots.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Yes the majestic cacao! I missed picking this fruit. When I was young we used to pick this when it is ripe and let it dry under the sun and wait until my grandma grind this to pure cacao. ^_^ Inviting you to join ...Water World Wedneday

    ReplyDelete
  18. Wow, what an interesting post. The little flower is very pretty!

    Hope you can stop by, say "Hello" and "Like" Hood Photography on Facebook! Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  19. A mysterious plant, but what a delightful final product.

    ReplyDelete

Your visits and comments are the life of this site. I certainly appreciate them and I will make sure to return the favor. Energies are not destroyed, they are just transformed, so healthy energies be with us all, just like the breath of life!

But i am requesting that no other personal links should be put on your comments. I am sorry, but backlinks give me some problems, so i might not publish them.Thank you very much for understanding.