Cocoa from Almazonia
Everyone has heard stories about how cocoa delighted foreign queens and aristocrats with its matchless flavor. Now it’s time to point out that cocoa is likewise on the list of species that saved vast swathes of the Amazon Basin from the woodman’s axe, since it was worth its weight in gold at a time when extractive industries were considered the epitome of progress. In those times cocoa cultivation required strict conservation of the natural jungle environment, since the precious fruit could only grow in the shade of tall trees. Methods for farming cocoa as a monoculture had not yet been developed, and when they eventually did emerge they were applied in regions other than Amazonia
Unlike in former times, nowadays we take advantage of every part of the fruit. Moreover the entire process is nowadays far more environmentally sound than it used to be. This is how cocoa once again became worth its weight in gold and assumed the role of a guardian of the rainforest, supported by other plants of Amazonia, as well as by producers and consumers who are far more aware than prior generations and much more attentive to what the rainforest tells them.
Its white pulp yields raw material for juices, jellies, fine distillates, wine, vinegar, syrups for confectionery, ice cream, candy and many other foodstuffs. The bark (of the tree) or the rind (of the fruit), besides being a source of biogas and of organic fertilizer, is used as is, or ground into powder, as feed for various animals, from cattle to fish. Around 1500 AD cocoa seeds were used as currency in Brazil. The historian Pietro Martire D’Anghiera wrote of that “blessed money… that protects its owners from the infernal plague of greed, since it cannot be stored for long, nor buried.” More than five centuries later, cocoa’s riches still save us, and the cocoa tree teaches us to scrutinize and appreciate the true meaning of wealth.