/keuh kah"oh, -kay"oh/, n., pl. cacaos.
1. a small tropical American evergreen tree, Theobroma cacao, cultivated for its seeds, the source of cocoa, chocolate, etc.
2. Also, cocoa. the fruit or seeds of this tree.
[1545-55; < Sp < Nahuatl cacahuatl cacao seeds]

* * *

Tropical New World tree (Theobroma cacao) of the chocolate family (Sterculiaceae, or Byttneriaceae).

Its seeds, after fermentation and roasting, yield cocoa and chocolate. Cocoa butter is extracted from the seed. The tree is grown throughout the wet lowland tropics, often in the shade of taller trees. Its thick trunk supports a canopy of large, leathery, oblong leaves. The small, foul-smelling, pinkish flowers are borne directly on the branches and trunk; they are followed by the fruit, or pods, each yielding 20–40 seeds, or cocoa beans.

* * *

also called  cocoa 

      tropical tree, whose scientific name means “food of the gods” in Latin. Originating in the lowland rainforests of the Amazon and Orinoco river basins, cacao is grown commercially in the New World tropics as well as western Africa and tropical Asia for its seeds called cocoa beans, which are processed into cocoa powder, cocoa butter, and chocolate. This article treats the cultivation of the cacao plant. For information on the processing of cocoa and the history of its use, see the article cocoa.

Natural history
      Cacao grows in the forest understory to a height of 6–12 metres (20–40 feet), usually remaining at the lower end of this range. Its oblong, leathery leaves measure up to 30 cm (12 inches) in length, and periodically the tree sheds them to grow a new set that is strikingly red when young. The foul-smelling or odourless flowers can be present at all times, but appear in abundance twice a year. Growing from “flower cushions” on the trunk and limbs, the flowers are about 1 cm (0.4 inch) in height and breadth. They can be white, rosy, pink, yellow, or bright red, depending on the species. In many areas cacao relies on tiny flies called midges (midge) for pollination.

      After four years the mature cacao tree produces fruit in the form of elongated pods; it may yield up to 70 such fruits annually. The pods, or cherelles, range in colour from bright yellow to deep purple. They ripen in less than six months to a length up to 35 cm (14 inches) and a width at the centre of 12 cm (4.7 inches). Each pod is divided into 10 sections by ridges running along its length, and 20 to 60 seeds, or cocoa beans, within are arranged around the long axis of the pod. The beans are dicotyledonous (having two seed leaves), oval shaped, and about 2.5 cm (1 inch) long and are covered with a sweet, sticky white pulp. After fermentation and drying, 20 to 30 cocoa beans will weigh 28 grams (1 ounce).

      Cacao thrives at altitudes of 30 to 300 metres (100 to 1,000 feet) above sea level in areas where temperatures do not range much below 20° C (68° F) or above 28° C (82° F). Rainfall requirements depend upon the frequency and distribution of rain and the degree of water retention by the soil; minimum rainfall is about 1,000 mm (39 inches) evenly distributed throughout the year, but 1,500–2,000 mm (59–79 inches) is optimal. Successful cultivation also requires deep, well-drained soil that is porous and rich in humus. Protection against strong winds is necessary because of the tree's shallow root system. Insect and disease control is crucial, as over 25 percent of the world's crop is lost to damage each year.

      Owing to the hazards of disease and pests, only 20 percent of the world's crop is grown on large plantations. Most of the world's cocoa is grown on small farms of less than two hectares (five acres). Cacao can also be grown in pristine rainforests at low densities, providing an economic use for protected land.

      In cultivating cacao, plants are first grown from seeds or cuttings, then transplanted, being spaced at intervals of 1.5 to 4.5 metres (5 to 15 feet). Other tree crops such as banana, palm, or rubber are often planted with the cacao to provide shade for the young trees. Floral buds are removed from the trees until they are five years old. Commercial cocoa-bean crop yields may vary from under 100 to over 3,000 kg per hectare (110 to 2,700 pounds per acre), with the world average being between 340 and 450 kg per hectare (300 and 400 pounds per acre).

      Cacao is likely to be of hybrid origin and many varieties exist. In Central America two additional species of cacao (T. bicolor and T. angustifolium) are grown to produce cocoa. In parts of Brazil and Colombia T. grandiflorum is cultivated for its tasty pulp. Cacao is related to the kola nut tree (genus Cola) and both are members of the plant family Sterculiaceae.

Pests and diseases
      The most commonly destructive diseases of the cacao tree are pod rots. A pod rot called black pod is caused by a fungus (Phytophthora) that spreads rapidly on the pods under conditions of excessive rain and humidity, insufficient sunshine, and temperatures below 21° C (70° F). Control requires timely treatment with copper-containing fungicides and by constant removal of infected pods. Fungal diseases found in the Americas and West Indies include witches' broom and monilia pod rot. Asian cacao trees are affected by a fungus that causes the tree to dry out, starting from the branch tips—a condition called dieback. Swollen shoot is a viral disease transmitted to the plant by mealybugs that has devastated Ghanaian and Nigerian cocoa crops.

      Some common diseases as cherelle (young pod) wilt, cushion galls, and dieback are not thoroughly understood and may result from a combination of physiological, viral, nutritional, and fungal conditions. Many different insects cause vegetative and crop damage to cocoa, especially mealybugs, true bugs (heteropterans), thrips, and scale insects. In Southeast Asia the cocoa pod borer, the larva of mosquito-like insect, is a common pest.

L. Russell Cook Ed.

Additional Reading
L. Russell Cook, Chocolate Production and Use, 3rd ed., rev. by E.H. Meursing (1982), covers the cocoa and chocolate industry from the growing of cocoa beans to the finished cocoa and chocolate products. G.A.R. Wood and R.A. Lass, Cocoa, 4th ed. (1985), is also of interest.L. Russell Cook Ed.

* * *

Universalium. 2010.

Игры ⚽ Поможем сделать НИР

Look at other dictionaries:

  • cacao — cacao …   Dictionnaire des rimes

  • CACAO — CACA Dans la forêt amazonienne, le cacaoyer pousse spontanément, et, avant 1939, le Brésil restait au premier rang des producteurs (région d’Ilhéus). Depuis 1945, la production africaine a rapidement supplanté celle de l’Amérique, elle représente …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • cacao — CACÁO s.f. Sămânţa arborelui de cacao, folosită (sub formă de produs pulverulent) în alimentaţie, mai ales la fabricarea ciocolatei şi a unor băuturi hrănitoare. ♢ Unt (sau ulei) de cacao = substanţă grasă, de culoare albă gălbuie, extrasă din… …   Dicționar Român

  • cacao — sustantivo masculino 1. Theobroma cacao. Árbol tropical, originario de América, con hojas alternas duras y brillantes, tronco liso, pequeñas flores amarillas y rojas, y fruto con muchas semillas que son el principal ingrediente del chocolate. 2.… …   Diccionario Salamanca de la Lengua Española

  • cacao — semilla del Theobroma cacao, un árbol tropical de la familia de las esterculiáceas. Del cacao se obtiene el chocolate y un aceite aceite sólido a temperatura ambiente (mantequilla de cacao) que se utiliza para la elaboración de barras de labios y …   Diccionario médico

  • CACAO — Entwickler TU Wien Aktuelle Version 0.99.4 (16. März 2009) Programmier­sprache C, Java Lizenz GPL (Freie Software) …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Cacao — ist eine, seit 2004 unter GPL freigebene, Java Virtual Machine (JVM) mit einem sogenannten Just In Time (JIT) Compiler, der zur Laufzeit des Java Programms den erforderlichen Maschinencode generiert. Entwickelt wird die Software von der… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • cacao — /ka kao/ (ant. caccao) s.m. [dallo sp. cacao, azteco cacahuatl ], invar. 1. (bot.) [albero dai cui frutti si estrae il cacao]. 2. (estens.) [nell uso com., la bevanda preparata con il cacao] ▶◀ cioccolata, cioccolato …   Enciclopedia Italiana

  • cacao — [kə kā′ō, kəkä′ō] n. pl. cacaos [kə kā′ōz, kəkä′ōz, kə kou′ōz΄] [Sp < Nahuatl kakawaλ, cacao seed] 1. a tropical American tree (Theobroma cacao) of the sterculia family, bearing large, elliptical seedpods 2. the nutritious seeds (cacao beans)… …   English World dictionary

  • Cacāo — (span.), die Früchte eines tropischen Baumes, Theobroma cacao (Cacaobaum); dieser ist 20–40 Fuß hoch, mit länglichen, zugespitzten, ganzrandigen, grünen, kahlen, jung röthlichen Blättern, linealpfriemlichen Nebenblättern, flaumhaarigen gehäuften… …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Cacao — Cacao, Frucht des Cacaobaums (theobroma cacao) in Südamerika, der dort oft ganze Wälder bildet und beständig Früchte trägt, die jedoch nur zwei Mal im Jahr, im Juni und im Winter, gesammelt werden. Die gurken oder melonenförmige Frucht ist… …   Damen Conversations Lexikon

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”