Cacao (Theobroma cacao) is also known as a cacao tree or cocoa tree, grows to about 13-25’ in size and is part of the Malvacaeae family. It is native to the deep tropical regions on Central and South America including Hawai’i. In fact, Hawaii is the only state in the US that grows cacao commercially.
The small flowers bloom in clusers that form into pods that grow directly on the trunk. The seeds inside the pods once mature are picked then fermented and dried and finally roasted. Then ground to make cocoa powder and finally chocolate, although bitter without the addition of sugar or other sweetners.
From the pulp a fermented drink is made that has been called “elixir to the gods” and cacao is packed with healthy chemicals like flavonoids and theobromine.
Chocolate can be used in sweet or savory dishes. From the roasted cacao nibs sprinkled on a salad or ground power added to soups & sauces. The end result can be made into works of confectionary art.