The Amazon Rainforest Cocoa Tree produces more than 150 chemicals in its leaves, seeds, fruit, and bark. The Olmecs, Mayans, and Aztecs used parts from the tree to treat anxiety, fever, fatigue, and coughs. Five hundred years ago the plant was brought to Europe, where it was used to treat kidney stones and cuts and burns, among other things. Recent research shows that chocolate contains polyphenols, which prevent heart disease.
Growing Amazon Cocoa Tree
All chocolate products start with the cocoa tree, which originated in the upper Amazon basin. In the wild, it grows to 50 feet tall as an "understory" tree in the shade of towering 200-foot-tall hardwoods and other trees. (Photo: ADM)
Amazon Cocoa Trees Aren't Easy To Grow
They're very picky about where they live. Amazon Rainforest Cocoa trees require constant warmth and rainfall to thrive. They need to be shaded from the strong tropical sun and sheltered from the wind. Cocoa trees grow only in tropical regions of Africa, Asia, South America and Central America, within about 15 degrees of the equator.
In The Shade Of Other Trees...
Cocoa trees grow best in the shade of other trees. When very young, they require deep shade. As they mature, they require more filtered sunlight. Farmers plant a shade umbrella of taller trees such as breadfruit, Para rubber, laurel and various legumes to shelter their cocoa trees. Shade-grown cocoa trees can produce fruit for 75 to 100 years or more.
The Cocoa Tree Needs: