Sunday, February 20, 2011

Chocolate and Roses

In Ecuador I watched, helped, and tasted as cocoa beans moved from tree to palate.

This treat begins in the warm, humid rainforests. I spent a couple days in the Mindo Cloud\Rain forest of Ecuador. Using machetes, the cacoa fruit is harvested. Looking a bit like a small, lumpy football in shape, the fruit contains a dozen or so seeds. Cut in half, as shown below, the seeds are surrounded by a white, pulpy, fairly sweet substance. The seeds are harvested and allowed to ferment, with some of the pulpy substance, for 6 or 7 days. Then the seeds are toasted. The hulls slip off easily with a slight squeeze of the fingers after being toasted. In the photos you can see the fruit, the cut open fruit showing the pulp and seeds, the roasting\toasting process, and the table after we have husked the papery covering from the seeds.

The next step was to grind the beans.

Besides the fun of the chocolate experience, AnaMaria, Ted and I were joined by two families, one Ecudorian and one from the states. The two families bonded several years ago when the Ecuadorian daughter spent a year in the states living with the other family. The state-side family was in Ecuador for the marriage of their "exchange daughter."

The ground beans were tossed into a kettle of boiling water and cooked. Sugar was added and while the mixture was still quite liquid, we tasted a tiny sample

The mixture continued to cook, the water evaporating. As it slowly cooked, the group visited and simply inhaled the thickening concoction.

Looks good doesn't it. Aren't you tempted to head to the kitchen and find some chocolate?

Finally it fed off the wooden spool in a thick twisting ribbon of chocolate.

And we finished the demonstation with thick chocolate sauce over fruit.

Another export of Ecuador is roses. Those who have read Barbara Kingsolvers Animal, Vegetable, Mineral and those of us trying to reduce our carbon footprint by buying locally grown foods will have some difficulty with the idea of roses grown on the Equator and close by, finding their ways to the tables of folks in Moscow, New York, and Paris.

The climate, the even year round temperatures of Ecuador are ideal for roses and are a major export of the nation. Huge buildings line the road to the airport in Quito, cold houses for long stemmed roses on their way to Europe and North America. We visited one of AnaMaria's cousins at their ranch where roses are raised and sent to Russia. According to her cousin's son, the Russians pay better, despite their tight economy, for long stemmed roses than Norte Americanos.

And now that your taste buds are tempted by chocolate, a rose to enjoy with your snack.

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