CACAO GARDENER VISION · THE CACAO NURSERY
01 Before the Beginning
02 Choosing the Right Seeds
03 The Cacao Nursery
04 Nourishment, Roots & Cycles
05 A Messenger of the Heart
06 Growing a Cacao Tree at Home
CHOOSING THE RIGHT SEEDS
TEXT by LENA BRANDT, JUAN PABLO Galvis & RICARDO LEYVA · PICTURES BY Kristiana Pinne & rodrigo flores
Choosing the best Cacao variety to grow is like choosing the best wine. Ultimately, it’s a subjective decision.
Some people invest a lot of time, money and effort to find the variety they want to work with. Travelling the lands of Mama Cacao, combing through the jungles in search of trees with superior flavour potential.
Native Cacao varieties that can be found in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, the land of our Cacao Gardener plantation, are commonly called Criollo varieties or 'White Cacao’ because of the colour of their beans.
Various trees with these characteristics were found mainly near hillsides and in places where agro-ecological conditions allowed them to survive. They have been able to survive both climatic changes and human use of the land. This type of cacao is susceptible to pests and diseases when moved to other areas; however, when kept in its native habitat, it is very robust.
Their main characteristic is that they are soft in taste and aroma. There are trees with different types of pods and beans, some larger than others. You can also find trees that are more productive than others. But they all have a common denominator, namely their soft sensory profile. Their organoleptic characteristics are mainly fruits and nuts.
To start growing a Cacao Tree, you will need beans taken from a ripe pod from another Cacao tree. The pod is ripe when the beans are loose and the pod will rattle when shaken. Choose healthy pods from trees that display good agronomic traits like:
- High yields
- Good pod index
- Disease tolerance
- Shapely architecture
- Reasonable vigour
as these traits might be passed down from the mother tree to the seedlings.
But please have in mind: The seedlings will unfortunately not resemble the mother tree. This is just how nature works — the children are beings of their own. To bypass that issue, there’s the technique of grafting, which we will explain to you in an article of its own in the edition "Our Cacao Family".
For the nursery at Sierra Divina, we use beans from a Forastero variety called IMC-67 (Iquitos Mixed Calabacillo series), which originally comes from the Marañon River basin in the Peruvian Amazon. They are robust, disease-resistant (especially fungus resistant) and have a strong root system. The beans were collected from a tree that was planted near Sierra Divina and is therefore already adapted to the conditions in this area.
Around the globe, there are countless varieties and sub-varieties of Cacao, some of which are still unknown and have yet to be found. They all come with different qualities, different origins and different compositions of genetic material; all with different characteristics and flavours. They respond differently to diseases, some varieties have higher or lower yields, and produce beans with different flavour profiles.
There is so much diversity to be discovered. I would say more than we can imagine. In this way, Cacao connects us back to the land. The unique flavour reflects the unique composition of its land of origin — the soil, the water, the air, the sun, the animals, the people, the more-than-human world. And also its tree ancestors. Next time you prepare your Cacao or drink a cup of this rainbow medicine, I invite you to try to REALLY taste it — and connect with the land.
THE CACAO GARDENER VISION
Plant a Cacao tree and help setting up an entire forest. Our initial goal is to secure 450 guardianships and beginning with the Spring Equinox 2022 nurse, establish and plant 1 hectare of Cacao forestry ecosystem with a total of 1,111 Cacao trees, 1,000 plantains and 130 oak trees that serve as mother shade trees to the Cacao. This is gonna be an exciting journey and you are invited to be part of every step from seed to Cacao tree.
Within five years we intend to help planting altogether 11,110 Cacao trees, 10,000 plantains and 1,300 oak trees adding up to 12,410 trees on 10 hectares of land. It is our intention to seed - with every planted tree - blessings, consciousness and an environment that allows us to put our hands into the soil and feel deepest kinship with the natural world.
THE CACAO GARDENER MAGAZINE IS A CO-CREATION OF CACAO LOVERS, GUARDIANS & GARDENERS WHO HAVE EMBARKED ON A CACAO GARDENER JOURNEY AND WEAVE INTo THE VISION OF A SPIRITED CACAO FOREST ♥︎