In the earliest years of cacao harvesting, the peoples grew the trees in small stands near water, and left the trees mostly grow naturally. Cacao trees prefer growing in the shade of other trees, not to be protected from the sun, but because this creates the perfect home for midges, (gnats) which are the only way cacao is pollinated. The natural litter and debris on the floor of the rain forests (leaf trash, animal carcasses and rotten cacao pods) are the ideal breeding ground for the midge.
These things are missing in the well maintained grounds of the modern plantation; therefore the production of the cacao tree is much lower with only 1 to 3 percent of the pods producing seeds. http://intercomm-group.com/index.php After pollination, each of the flowers growing from the trunk and larger branches of the trees, produce a pod, each of these large pods contains 30 or 40 of the seed or beans. The pods surround the seeds with a sweet, juicy pulp that the tree has no way to open so the seeds can be dispersed.
In nature this dispersion is accomplished by rodents (rats, monkeys and squirrels) on the plantations this is accomplished by human hands. Alkaloids make the sees bitter, so this is not what attracts the rodents, they are attracted to the pulp surrounding the seeds, and this pulp is probably what first attracted humans to the pods as well. http://intercomm-group.com/index.php The pods take four or five months to reach maturity and another month to ripen, the pollination process with the cacao tree occurs throughout the year with two harvest times.
The pods will remain fresh on the trunk for several weeks and remain usable for another week after they are harvested. Modern techniques allow for continuous harvesting, but must be done with care not to damage the cushions that the pods grow from; allowing them to produce more flowers and pods. http://intercomm-group.com/index.php Thank you, http://intercomm-group.com/index.
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