‘Stressed out’ cocoa trees could produce more flavorful chocolate
Cocoa trees grow in hot and humid climates near the equator. Traditionally, these trees are raised together in mixed groves with other types of trees and plants that can cool the air and provide vital shade. The system, called agroforestry, provides a low-stress environment, increases nutrients in the soil and helps maintain ground water levels. But to gain higher yields, growers sometimes plant cocoa trees in solitary, “monocultural,” groves, in which the trees are exposed to stressful conditions. In response to the stress, tress produce antioxidants that can potentially counteract the damage, but these compounds also could change the quality characteristics of the beans. Wiebke Niether, Gerhard Gerold and colleagues from FiBL (Switzerland) wanted to find out whether differing growing methods can influence the chemical composition, and potentially the flavor, of cocoa beans.
Illustration Photo: cocoa tree (CC0 Creative Commons from Pixabay.com)