When you look at a cacao pod, it’s hard to believe that such an inconspicuous fruit holds such a treasure inside of it. We’re talking here about cacao beans, of course. These are the beauties that bring us our sweet and beloved chocolate. Well, not literally, but they are the key ingredient in chocolate production.
And what about the rest of the fruit, might you ask? Until recently, it hadn’t received such recognition as the beans. In fact, it’s said that approximately 80% of the fruit is thrown out during the conventional chocolate-making process. And while this has changed recently, thanks to the introduction of whole fruit cacao chocolate, the modern world is only discovering that there is much more to the cacao fruit than just cacao nibs.
Indeed, chocolate fruits open many possibilities, not just for chocolate lovers but also for any foodie. What makes this fruit unique, how does it taste, and how can it be used? If these are the questions going through your mind, the following article will provide you with all the answers!
What Is Cacao Fruit?
Starting with the basics, cacao (also called cocoa) is a tropical fruit native to the rainforests of the Amazon and Orinoco rivers. Commercially, cocoa is grown in South America, tropical Asia, and western Africa. It’s mostly recognized for cocoa beans, which are processed into cocoa butter, cacao powder, and, most importantly, chocolate itself.
When it comes to looks, cacao isn’t the most… appealing fruit. It’s a red or yellow oval-shaped pod, around 10-13 inches long and approximately 4.5 inches wide. As for the skin, it’s leathery and hard to crack. Its insides don’t look overly pretty either, usually holding between 20 to 60 cocoa beans covered in a sticky white cocoa pulp.
However, it’s not the look that the cacao pod is mostly known for. It’s its unique taste that makes all the difference. First, there’s the cocoa pulp, tasting sweet and refreshing, which is precisely what one can expect from a tropical fruit. As for the beans, these come with that rich flavor of dark chocolate.
Cocoa Fruit and Chocolate
Chocolate is the most famous product made of cocoa fruit - no questions about it. However, as mentioned, a conventional chocolate production process utilizes merely cocoa beans (cocoa nibs, to be exact), throwing away the rest of the fruit, often using it as a fertilizer. This is how practically all types of chocolate flavors are made, whether talking about dark, milk, or white chocolate.
However, it’s possible to use other parts of cacao fruit to make chocolate. In fact, it’s precisely what Barry Callbeout did in 2019. This was when the Zurich-based chocolate giant introduced its WholeFruit Chocolate, which utilizes 100% cocoa fruit and makes a huge step towards more sustainable chocolate production.
Other than being more eco, whole fruit chocolate comes with a richer and sweeter taste than classic chocolate. That’s because it utilizes cocoa pulp which works as a natural sweetener. That way, whole fruit chocolate doesn’t contain sugar, meaning it’s more healthy. Also, the pulp gives the chocolate that unique fruity flavor. A simply lovely combination.
Other Cacao Fruit Uses
Although chocolate is the first thing that comes to mind when talking about cacao fruits, there are numerous other products derived from this fruit. What’s more, many of them can be made at home! That’s a story for another time, though. Here, let’s focus on what can be done with cacao fruit.
In essence, cocoa butter is an edible fat obtained from cacao beans. It has a mild chocolate flavor and is often used in various pharmaceutical products (mostly ointments), as well as toiletries. You can also use it confectionary as it melts relatively quickly.
Cacao beans that are roasted in high temperatures later become chocolate. However, when processed at low temperatures, cacao nibs can be milled into a powder. You can then use it in your drinks and confectionery.
Cacao Fruit Liquor
Another possibility to use cacao fruit is to make liquor out of it. Using cocoa butter and that white pulp found inside the fruit, you’ll receive a delicious and refreshing sorbet-like liquor that works great with a plethora of drinks and cocktails.
Cacao fruit juice is pressed juice coming from the cacao pulp. It’s 100% natural, refreshing, and very fruity. However, what’s surprising is that it doesn’t have an overly intensive chocolate taste. It’s more like a mix of floral flavors with just a slight addition of a chocolate flavor note.
Final Words on Cacao Fruit
Who would’ve thought that cacao fruit can be so versatile, right? Not only does it give us our beloved chocolate, but it also can be used for numerous different purposes. On top of all that, it has to be said that cacao fruit is very healthy. It can improve digestive health, reduce stress, lower the risk of diabetes, or protect your heart, among many others. With all that being said, it’s hard to imagine how our lives would’ve looked without that ugly yet delicious fruit.