Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Cocoa (Resources Post)

Resousces Posts are "wiki-posts" they will be updated.

Theobroma cacao - Köhler–s Medizinal-Pflanzen-137
I hope this post will inspire you to buy "the right chocolate", but eventually less, for your and your loved ones' health from now on and for supporting a more sustainable & fair society.
  • General Information ( + social aspects )
  • Climatic & Growing Conditions (tropic understory plant: humid, shady, warm - indoors/greenhouses for experimenters)
  • How To Grow & Permaculture Aspects
  • Seed Saving (Video, fresh from ripe fruits)
  • Powerful medicinal 
  • Reasons to grow Cocoa  - Cocoa in Permaculture ( mulching, fertilising, understory for tropic food forests
  • Maplink (none yet, add your practice to Growstuff -  and leave a comment, pls) 

Our beloved cocoa is a powerful medicinal superfood, called "Food of the Gods" by the Aztecs and estimated to be the second most healthy material you can put into your body, after water.... which clearly depends on the preparation method; the original drink was made from cocoa, corn, vanilla and cayenne pepper.

For many readers of this blog, growing cocoa will be an exciting optional indoor experiment for the curious, but this post also aims to inspire to buy consciously: list of fair trade chocolate brands

After a heavy story of exploitation, that followed European colonialization, you can support valuable sustainable projects worldwide which aim to liberate underprivileged families from poverty in a sustainable way.
Eat less but better, also to save your health: cocoa is one of the plants that teached monoculture practices that even heavy use of pesticides will not make things better on the long run, but for cheap chocolates, heavy doses are still used...

First, a very optimistic (but actually commercial) video that introduces you to organic growing techniques, fertilising and harvesting practices - it is very clear and well done, embedding it does however not mean that I endorse or want to advertise the specific related product.

In bullet points, from all resources linked here and more, as I see aspects fit most effectively

  • Originated in South America, gone global in areas suited for tropical plants (57 countries, 4 $billion of world economy, map (commercial giants) another one by the Guardian)
  • Cocoa trees live up to 200 years, grow 6-8 m high, bear fruit after 5-8 years (if you are lucky), most productive for 25 years, longer in truly sustainable conditions 
  • Flowers and bears fruit all year long; more flowers at end of season
  • 5-7 months to progress from flower to ripe fruit
  • Self-incompatible, except Amelonado variety  (see below and February calendar sheet #plant sex) -> plant many seeds from different pods from different trees and experiment with hand pollination ( June sheet) if you are unlikely to host tropical rain forest pollinators like midges!
  • Matured fruits ripen over 2-3 weeks, harvest ripe and not overripe for propagation via seeds
  • Vegetative propagation will guarantee same genetics, but not create the 2 m deep taproot
  • Varieties to mention: Criollo (especially good taste) Forastero (higher yields, hardier), Amelonado (self-compatible) and Trinitario, a 300 year hybrid that is very suited for cultivation. 
  • To process sweet chocolate, a previous fermentation process that inhibits seed germination and involves alcohol reduces the high bitter contents

Climatic & Growing Conditions 

Well, imagine a thriving rain forest...

Warm ( Zone or indoors)
Optimum temperature 65- 90°F (18-32°C) Flowering only occurs at or above 68°F (20°C), temperatures below 50°F ( 10°C) may harm, even light frost may kill the plant
Shady, not direct sunlight
Very fertile soil
Avoid wind ! (Canopy...)
Delicate plant: - cut and discard diseased areas to avoid pesticides

How to Grow 

University of Florida Extension service ( link)
Background information (delicate plant) Worldagroforestry PDF
Grow Indoors (Wikihow, ehow)

Sustainable Cocoa Production ifc.org
Manual fao.org

More background information about the cocoa plant and growing conditions on  reproduction (fruits, flower & pollination) (via this premies thread)

Permaculture Aspects

Cocoa (Wikipedia) is originally an understory plant in rain forests, alas perfect as understory plant in tropic permaculture food forests (...permaculture learns from nature and aims at dense planting for sustainable high yield production. Canopy: Banana, Plantain, Coconut and Rubber )

As mentioned in the video above, its is a great mulching plant, just drop chopped healthy parts to the ground to fertilise the soil. Or experiement with cocoa + coffee plant based fertilisers )

"Initial" thread on companion planting on premies

Seed Saving

For those who do not live in tropical areas, it can be a fun experiment to order some fresh fruits with friends and grow some plants indoor.

A funny, great and practical video with lots of tips and experiences:

Tip: Order some fruits ( example links come with the video) and give it a try !
Cut the fruit around its waist to harm no seeds, squeeze and open it -  peel single seeds and off you go...to growing...

Powerful Medicinal

We need to remember that in case of chocolate as we usually consume it, only dark chocolate with over 70% cocoa content, preferably organic and consumed in moderate doses, will bring the desired benefits in a healthy way. Unprocessed cocoa beans are low in sugar (1%) but have a high fat content (54%). Please see the bullet-list below as indicating tendencies for those interested in traditional medicine, not as specific medication advice, except mood elevation ;).

  • Rich in antioxidants - protects your heart, against cancer and other destructive diseases like early ageing, especially atherosclerosis
  • Mood elevating #serotonin and dopamine (most people know this one, but it is not only the quick effect of sugar, prefer dark chocolate though...)
  • Stimulant (Mainly theobromine, check Wikipedia for a list of stimulating substances)
  • Flavonide mix that effectively lowers blood pressure and even gently benefits the vascular system 
  • Aphrodisiac:  Methylxantine blocks the receptor of adenosine
  • Rich in minerals, especially potassium, magnesium and Vitamine E
  • More ingredients to mention: caffeine ( low doses), theomobromine and phenethylamine - overall it is about the gentle mix
  • Softens skin and increases blood circulation externally, both as cocoa powder and butter

Side note - Attention: 
Soils that are high in calcium may lead to high cadmium contents, lead is another problematic contamination factor. 
Do not feed chocolate to your pets, most of them cannot process theobromine !

Explore an extensive hub page on the benefits of cocoa on Medicine Hunter.

--------------- Other Languages --------------

For a spanish medicinal post on Cacao, that links to other languages, visit

ABCPlantasmedicinales (links to: English (links to seeds4all.net), French, Italian, Portoguese )

---------- References------------

More reference articles, not including directly downloaded scientific studies:

http://www.gesundheit.de/ernaehrung/lebensmittel/gewuerze/kakao (german)

http://www.senioren-ratgeber.de/Ernaehrung/Wie-gesund-ist-Kakao-257955.html (german)

http://www.greenforce.cc/was/ueber-kakao/studien/ (german)


Disclaimer: The author does not take responsibility for the contents summarised or linked here ! I research deeply and am curious about an overlay of benefits as stated by traditional medicine and scientific research. Only such aspects are mentioned in posts on this blog. (Sometimes links that were listed higher up in searches or listed in Wikipedia articles actually turn out to be the most profound ones - you are very welcome to comment resources you estimate better, to update this post !)

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