Reviving Cacao

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Cacao pods ready for harvest at the Loiza Dark Chocolate farm. Courtesy of Loiza Dark Chocolate

Thanks to Dan Charles and his colleagues at the salt, over at National Public Radio (USA) for telling us about that something speaking to Mr. Vizcarrondo; we, working in Belize, working on farm revival among other things, also hear that something and we are inspired to hear of others who hear it too:

The dream of reviving Puerto Rico’s chocolate tradition took root in Juan Carlos Vizcarrondo’s mind years ago.

He’s always been obsessed with flowers and trees. As a boy, he planted so much greenery in his mother’s backyard, there was hardly room to walk.

But in his thirties, he started planting cocoa trees, with their colorful pods full of magical seeds. “Something told me, just keep planting, because nobody has it! It’s so strange, nobody has it!,” he recalls.

Centuries ago, there were whole plantations of cocoa trees here in Puerto Rico. The climate is perfect for them. But a series of hurricanes wiped out much of the island’s agriculture in the early 1700s, and cocoa farming never recovered. Most cocoa now is harvested in places where labor is cheaper, like in West Africa.

But you can still find cocoa trees growing wild in the Puerto Rico’s hills, with yellow and purple pods, shaped like miniature footballs, sprouting from trunks and branches. Vizcarrondo went looking for them, and found a few.

“Once I had the pods in my hands, I was so impressed,” he says, and the wonder is still audible in his voice. “I started opening them and sucking on the pulp, and that was delicious. I started drying them out in the sun.”…

Read the whole story here.

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