The Pests That Make Cacao Productive

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Forcipomyia spp. pollinating a cacao flower. Goodman Cacao Estate, Killaloe, Australia, 2017. Credit: Samantha J. Forbes

This 12-minute primer on Soundcloud gives a reason to appreciate these otherwise very annoying pests:

Chocolate: Brought To You By Bugs

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Forcipomyia spp. SEM image. Goodman Cacao Estate, Killaloe, Australia, 2017. Credit: Samantha J. Forbes

Chocolate starts as a beautiful yellow and cream-colored blossom, with blushes of pink and magenta. The flowers, sprouting straight from the bark of the cacao tree, are no bigger than a dime—and they’re pollinated by something much smaller: a barely visible fly related to biting no-see-ums, or midges. Continue reading

Cacao, Spices & Imagination

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Left, a ripe cacao pod. Right, truffles from Midunu chocolates contain spices and flavors from all over Africa. Midunu Chocolates

Thanks to Amy E. Robertson and National Public Radio (USA) for telling the story of Midunu, a brief excerpt of which is sampled below:

One Woman’s Quest To Tell ‘The African Story Through Chocolate’

…While working in Senegal, Atadika joined forces with two more food-loving friends, and created a pop-up restaurant that was wildly popular. After dipping her toes in the culinary world for a couple of years, she finally took the plunge. In 2014, Atadika resigned from the UN, moved back to her native Ghana and began cooking full time.

Atadika started with catering and pop-up dinners. “It wasn’t my plan to do chocolates,” she says. “But whatever I do in food I look at in terms of adding value, and chocolate just kind of popped in, because we have this cocoa but we weren’t really processing it at the level we should be.” Midunu Chocolates was born. Continue reading

Keep National Parks Safe, Know Your Chocolate

Choc.jpgThe rise in artisanal cacao farming, as we have noted on occasion, can have important implications for conservation. Whether you are a chocoholic or just a casual dabbler in the sweet bi-product of cacao, this report deserves your attention (click on the image to go to the source):

Chocolate is everywhere. It is the afternoon pick-me-up, the sensual indulgence, the accoutrement to seduction. Lovers gift truffles, skiers sip on rich hot chocolate, and connoisseurs savor the tiniest, richest bite of single origin dark chocolate. The ancient Aztecs believed that chocolate was an aphrodisiac, and the emperor Montezuma was reported to gorge himself on chocolate in advance of his trysts. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

Forest Protection By Any Other Name, For Any Other Purpose, Through Any Other Means, Is Just As Sweet

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Richard Fortey and Derek Niemann among the beeches in Grim’s Dyke Wood. Photograph: Sarah Niemann

We do not favor private sector conservation efforts over all other options; we favor them over the option of no conservation at all. Governments around the world have rightly done the heaviest lifting on preserving nature, considering their resources, eminent domain, and other factors including the most salient; public lands effectively belong to an entire nation’s citizens. Philanthropies have also done enormous good. We have written plenty on both public and philanthropic conservation schemes. Today, a more modest story, but no less lovely:

A walk in the woods with Richard Fortey

Henley, Oxfordshire The palaeontologist and author offers a tour of Grim’s Dyke Wood, which he bought in 2011

Derek Niemann

Five years after the palaeontologist Richard Fortey bought Grim’s Dyke Wood, a small Chiltern beech wood, he shows no diminution in enthusiasm for his “nature reserve”. He gives me a tour, though in truth we delight in each other’s discoveries. I find him a ring of bright feathers on a pile of rotting pine logs, a raptor’s kill, the buffs and browns speaking of a song thrush forever silenced. He finds bracket fungi that have insinuated themselves into the thin, horizontal lesions on a cherry tree’s trunk. Continue reading

In The Name Of Chocolate

The Tamshiyacu plantation in northern Peru where it is alleged a United Cacao subsidiary illegally cleared primary rainforest. Photograph: Environmental Investigation Agency

The Tamshiyacu plantation in northern Peru where it is alleged a United Cacao subsidiary illegally cleared primary rainforest. Photograph: Environmental Investigation Agency

Thanks to the Guardian‘s renewed environmental reporting efforts for this investigative delicacy:

Can Peru stop ‘ethical chocolate’ from destroying the Amazon?

NGOs allege illegal deforestation of primary rainforest to plant cacao and oil palm

David Hill

Cattle-ranching, logging, mining, highways, hydroelectric dam projects, oil and gas, soy, oil palm. . . These are what first come to mind to many people when thinking about how the Amazon is being destroyed, but what about chocolate too?

NGO Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) released a report on 7 April mainly about monoculture oil palm plantations, which it describes as a “major new threat to Peruvian forests.” The report, Deforestation by Definition, focuses on the Romero Group, Peru’s “largest economic actor”, and what it calls the “Melka Group”, a network of 25 companies recently established in Peru and controlled by businessman Dennis Melka, a major player in the destructive oil palm industry in Malaysia.

According to EIA, two “Melka Group” companies have illegally deforested an estimated “nearly 7,000 hectares” of mainly primary rainforest in Peru over the last three years, and others have acquired at least 456 “rural properties” and requested the government set aside another 96,192 hectares.

Continue reading