We are sitting around a wooden table on a high mountain near the west coast town of Mayaguez. Donna’s reading a book, Sophia’s playing with her camera. It was an easy but long 3 hour drive from Naguabo. Perhaps we’re resting a bit, after yesterday’s all-day rain forest hike with naturalist Robin Phillips. Or maybe it’s all the tasty but hefty Puerto Rican cuisine; my lunch of carne layered with plantains was worth returning for!
Last night Sophia and Donna had their first taste of cacao fruit. We compared the pods and beans from two local trees, one a magnificently-delicate pure white strain that appears to be loaded with criollo genes. The fruit from both was delicious, but you could definitely taste the difference in the raw beans. Signing off for now, and handing the reins (or at least the keyboard) over to Sophia. ~Rich
Sophia here… Going to go off on a small, but related tangent. I still can’t get over the environment that cacao grows in on this part of the island. You would expect to find rows and rows of cacao trees. Not really how it hapens here. Robin’s cacao tree, the suspected criollo variety, was by itself. No other cacao tree around. It was growing within a tropical network of banana trees, providing shade, a cinnamon tree, and siberian bamboo holding the side of the hill in place. Robin provides very little tending to this tree, yet it thrives in this cooperative environment and produces beans that were sweet enough we could eat raw. My permaculture friends will love this example of a productive, ecological system! Maybe the oldest model of cacao growing should be the basis for a new, sustainable method of cacao production…. ~Sophia
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