Theobroma cacao (cocoa)
Plant of the month: January
The unusual pods grow close to the trunk of the Theobroma cacao, better known as cocoa/chocolate tree. The sweet treat chocolate and cocoa powder come from the tree which can grow up to 8 meters tall. Many tropical trees flower straight from the trunk or thick branches to attract pollinators that fly low through the tropical forest (technically known as cauliflory). The fruit ripens from a pale blue-green colour to a yellow/orange colour. Harvesting can take place throughout the year and it is not unusual to witness the tree flowering and fruiting at the same time. Theobroma means ‘food of the Gods’ referring to the seeds and cacao derives from the Aztec word Xocoiati meaning bitter water. Originally Native to Mexico, Central America and northern South America, the crop can now be found growing all over the world, producing approximately 3,000,000 tons of cocoa every year. In the UK alone each person consumes on average 9kg of chocolate in a year. What a paradox that the Mexican’s bitter water creates the average Briton’s sweet treat!