Fresh cacao is the fruit is used to make chocolate and cocoa! The football-shaped pod can range from 4 to 12 inches long and comes in various colors depending on genetics, and the degree of ripeness: green, yellow, orange, red, purple, or maroon. The outer covering of the pod is rough and leathery and filled with a sweet, white flesh that encases 20 to 40 large seeds. It takes about 7-14 pods to yield just one pound of seeds. The seeds, also called beans, are fairly soft with a pale lavender to dark brownish-purple color. The flavor of the beans vary according to growing conditions. Raw cacao is thought to be one of the highest naturally occurring sources of antioxidants and magnesium.
*Please note, this item is typically larger and each piece can range from 1 to 2 pounds each.*
Ripening and Storage:
The cacao pod is ripe when the seeds rattle within the fruit when shaken.
Prepare the cacao pod how you would an acorn squash. Stab your knife into the center of the pod deep enough to break through the skin and flesh, but not so much you go through the beans. Then run the knife along the length of the fruit from the top to the bottom to cut it all the way through. Don't cut through to the other side because you may accidentally cut open the beans. Scoop out the inner fruit and beans. You can suck on the beans to eat (though they may be bitter) and enjoy the delicious pulp or you can scrape out the beans and save them for another use.
The fruit can be dehydrated and roasted to make cacao nibs or into your chocolate! If you want to make cacao nibs, make sure to roast or thoroughly dehydrated the seeds and then pulse in a food processor or blender. You can ferment the beans to make your own chocolate or you can plant them to grow a cacao tree. To make your own cocoa, dry the beans, roast them, and grind into a powder.