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Chocolate Tree/Cacao
Theobroma cacao

Have you ever wondered where chocolate from? Did you know that the chocolate in the candy bars that you buy at the grocery store actually come from a tree in the middle of the rainforest?

Chocolate comes from a tree called the Cocoa tree, or in Spanish, Cacao. The cocoa tree or chocolate tree, is found in the Upper Amazon Basin where it can reach over fifty feet high. The fruit is thick and oval shaped, usually yellow or red, and can sometimes grow as big a as a football. The inside of the fruit is packed full of between twenty and sixty seeds. The seeds are surrounded by a sweet pulp that you can eat for a tasty treat. Children in the rainforest love to suck on the seeds from the Cacao tree as you might suck on candy where you live.

The pulp around the seed is actually there to attract animals that will eat the seed and then serve as seed dispensers after the seed goes through their digestive track. After eating the sweet seeds, the animals continue on their way and actually plant seeds on accident when they go to the bathroom.

Cacao is an important crop in the Amazon region because it is sold to countries all over the world so that children just like you can eat all forms of chocolate: liquid in your hot cocoa, and solid in your candy bar.

Cacao has been used for hundreds of years in Peruvian Indian groups such as the Maya, Aztec, and Zapotecs. To use the seeds, they remove them from the pod, roast them, shell them, and grind them to produce chocolate powder. That powder is then used in all sorts of sweet desserts and drinks. The leaves of the cacao tree are used by indigenous tribes as a heart tonic and diuretic. Brews from the bark and toasted seeds are used to treat asthma. Additionally, cocoa butter, the oil from the seed, is used in lotion, oils, and as laxatives. The latin name, theobroma cacao, translates to "food of the gods."

Chocolate: From the pod to your mouth!

The cacao pods are ready to be harvested when they are an orange or red color.

The seeds of the cacao pods are covered in a sweet candy-like coating that are yummy to suck on.

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