Any guesses as to which delectable treat is made from these strange looking jelly-covered seeds?
If you said chocolate, you would be correct.
I have to admit, when Alastair presented me with this cacao pod, my best guess was a small rotting papaya.
Living in Sierra Leone, I realized that I’ve grown up in a culture and era that has removed itself from food origins. Rarely did I think about where my food was coming from when shopping in a grocery store back home, and even less frequently did I consider how the food was grown and processed to arrive on the shelves for me to purchase.
Here, I witness chickens and other animals being slaughtered before ending up on the table for dinner. Fruit and vegetables are grown on small-scale farms and sold on the side of the road or in a nearby market, usually covered with imperfections that would never be considered acceptable produce back home. We also have a variety of items growing in our camp or in the bush nearby as a source for food. Although much of what is eaten in camp is still imported into the country, I feel as if I’ve bridged some of that gap as I’m experiencing what its like to be closer to the food I eat, and I hope to continue to carry that awareness with me.
So, when Alastair handed me something strange and new that one of my oldest and favorite treats is made from, I was excited to learn about it and make the connection. I suppose anything relating to chocolate is exciting for me.
Cacao is one of the few cash crops grown in Sierra Leone. Although the tree is originally from America, over 70% of the world’s cocoa comes from West Africa presently.
The cacao pod holds a tightly packed bunch of large seeds that are covered in a sweet jelly that people here enjoy sucking on. I thought it the jelly would taste more like chocolate but it didn’t, it was simply sweet and gooey.
Once the seeds go through a fermentation and drying process, they are typically roasted and ground into a paste to make chocolate.
I don’t know if I’ll get the chance to make my own chocolate with these seeds from this pod, but I’ll definitely use the cocoa powder I have sitting in our pantry to make some brownies in its honor!