THE FUTURE OF CHOCOLATE and FOOD IN THE OFF WORLD COLONIES
As life on Earth is becoming increasingly unsustainable at the current rate of resource usage, the notion of a human settlement on the Red Planet is gaining traction. The planet can likely be terraformed and eventually become a habitable atmosphere. What humans will eat when that time arrives is among the list of million dollar questions regarding how to successfully occupy another planet. At Santa Barbara Chocolate, we are in the process of experimenting with chocolate and carob combinations which we call Colony Red.
What is Carob?
Carob is arguably one of the most under-utilized easily sustainable ingredients in the food marketplace. This all natural fruit of an evergreen tree has been most widely used as an alternative for chocolate or even as an additional supplementary ingredient in chocolate recipes. Carob trees (Ceratonia siliqua) originate in the Mediterranean with deep cultural roots spanning over thousands of years. Cultural implications of carob are derived from Biblical figure, John the Baptist, who is thought to have survived on the trees hardy seed pods while traversing the desert. Some circles refer to carob as “St. John’s Bread” for this reason.A more widely known term, carat, is also derived from carob. In ancient times, carob seed pods were used to measure gold and other precious gems as it was believed there was little variation in their weight. Of course, this is incorrect as carob seed pods differ in weight just as much as any other seed. Carats have long been regarded as the international unit of measurement for gold and precious gemstones. A term commonly equated with wealth and luxury, was spawned from these humble seed pods.
Like all plants, carob has limitations. Still, it is highly adaptable and can thrive in a low light environment. The tree, which reaches a maximum height of 30 to 40 feet, can grow in most soil types except clay. If you were waiting for news to break that scientists have discovered carob trees can also grow on Martian soil, you are going to be a little disappointed. The good news is that Santa Barbara Chocolate is consulting agriscientists to address this very issue. The aptly named Colony Cacao trees will be a hybridized species of carob and cacao plants. Our unique botanical experiment will be harvested for the production of an innovative new food crop that marries carob and chocolate as one. So far, even with severe botanical limitations requiring scientific advancements, this potential food source looks promising albeit still in a sci-fi area of research. Our hope is that Colony Cacao trees can be bioengineered to adapt to the climate on another planet within green houses. Flavors of carob come from the seed pod, which contains a naturally sweet pulp. Like many fruit-bearing trees, it can take up to 5 years or longer for a carob tree to become fully established and produce seed pods. Chocolate lovers and chocolate wholesalers will have to develop long term business plans to produce bulk quantities of chocolate, or carob chocolates in a Martian colony, but this is a likely direction for business in the next 25 years. Colony Cacao trees will inevitably be a part of this plan as we are hopeful of developing a bioengineered solution to sustainable food production for life on the Red Planet.
The idea of cross-breeding plants for agricultural purposes is not exactly one that is revolutionary. A prime example of this would be the Boysenberry, which is a hybrid species consisting of: European blackberry, raspberry, American dewberry and loganberry. In fact, loganberries are also a hybrid species. Boysenberries were popularized in the 1920’s when Walter Knott recognized their commercial potential. These berries became exponentially popular to the point that by 1940, about 600 acres of farmland in California was dedicated solely to this highly hybridized berry. Unfortunately, this proved to be a passing fad as Boysenberries have long since fallen out of favor due to various challenges regarding harvest time and fresh delivery. Still, the Boysenberry legacy prevails in American food culture as a staple syrup flavor at breakfast diners. The berry is also an important part of California history and was the impetus for the iconic Knott’s Berry Farm theme park in Orange County.
Much like Boysenberries, Colony Cacao trees can become a hybridized species developed and harvested locally in Southern California. However, the fruit of Colony Cacao trees will aim to be far more than a passing food trend. These trees and the fruit they bear are the future of food in a constantly evolving global landscape. The concept of Colony Cacao trees is born from the need to produce a comforting yet nutritious food source for what seems to be the foreshadowing of a future human settlement on another planet. Since food is so central to life in both a literal and cultural sense, it is important to consider the future of food. Of course, foods that incite sensory pleasure are not be overlooked. Colony Red carob chocolates made from the fruit of Colony Cacao trees will ensure chocolate is included in this narrative.
Something Earth Has Never Seen
As you might expect, the innovation of producing and sustaining a viable food source on another wordly landscape is no chocolate cake walk. The climate on the Red Planet soil and the availability of supplies are both significant obstacles to overcome. While these obstacles may be the first to come to mind, they are far from the last of the challenges associated with growing food in outer space. So say goodbye to your cheeseburgers, the meals we eat on an off world colony are mostly likely going to consist of a vegan diet. Experts agree that meat and dairy products will be too costly and laborious to maintain. The likelihood of this changing may increase with time and new scientific developments, but initially the diet is certain to be vegan. Since traditional milk chocolate and vegan chocolate both require a more intricate process, bioengineered Colony Cacao carob is a more likely candidate for the sustainable food production of a human settlement beyond Earth.
Since plants from Earth simply will not grow on another planet, Santa Barbara Chocolate is researching the idea of a tree unlike any other on Earth. The hybrid fruit of Colony Cacao trees will require minimal processing and leaves a low carbon footprint, even here on Earth. The fruit of our labor from working with forward thinking biologists in combining both carob and cocoa seeds to make a sustainable food for planet earth or on an off world colony. The hybrid seeds were grown in a greenhouse which mimics a warm tropical environment, similar to that of where cocoa originates. This greenhouse environment will have to be duplicated in Martian soil. This will present yet another hurdle as this soil is high in perchlorates, which are deadly to humans. Carob alone will not suffice as a viable food source, however the hybrid of carob and cacao shows promise. Still, the unrelenting environment of another planet and the vast number of possible carob and cacao combinations have sent Santa Barbara Chocolate to the drawing board.
Santa Barbara Chocolate is utilizing AI research tools and bioengineering to find a solution to this additional obstacle. Scientists are hopeful they can further genetically modify Colony Cacao trees in such a way that perchlorates found in the fourth planet's soil will not be absorbed or will be restricted to being deposited in the leaves or skins of the seed pods. This would of course make those parts of the tree not part of the food. An optimal cross breeding of carob and cocoa will also have to be discovered as the current hybridization may not be a sufficient choice for continuous food production for life in a harsh environment. The hybrid that could thrive on Earth, may not be the same one that thrives on another planet. Thousands of combinations are possible, but will take time to test as a tree will not bear fruit for several years after the initial planting. AI research tools will also be implemented in this process as a means of efficiency. With so many available combinations, it is quite the needle in a haystack challenge. Santa Barbara Chocolate has found at least one needle upon which further developments will be made.
Chocolate of the Future
One of our goals with Colony Red carob chocolates is to bring a sustainable comfort and nutrition to Earth in the present, and to the future. Whether you agree with the idea of human life off world or not, we can all agree that food is a comforting, albeit necessary item. Food, both for nutrition and for comfort are quite obviously essential to our survival in any environment. Nutrient dense foods may not always be the most satisfying to our palates, but are vital to our health. While the so called “comfort foods” are often stereotyped as junk foods; starchy and fat-laden. Or alternatively, sweet and sugar stacked. Many comfort foods now have healthier alternatives, some of which successfully capture our favorite characteristics of the original, while others fail miserably and leave us disappointed. Unlike many snack foods, Colony Red carob chocolates successfully combines the best of both worlds for an ethereal flavor that will begin it’s tenure on Earth before being passed on to our descendants on an interstellar space station.
In comparison to regular chocolates, carob chocolates are slightly more tannic. Their sweetness is complemented by very subtle hints of anise and has more of a dark chocolate finish than milk chocolate. The flavor of carob chocolates is definitely one that would satisfy any chocolate craving and contains no added sugar. Still, the slight difference in flavor would not go unnoticed by a true chocolate connoisseur of today’s Earth. However, the flavor of chocolate, or what we perceive as the flavor of chocolate, may change over time. This could happen sooner than we think as cacao plants are even threatened here on Earth. (http://www.businessinsider.com/when-chocolate-extinct-2017-12) Pure chocolate or not, Colony Cacao fruit could become an effective crop on the Martian surface (albeit in a greenhouse). For this reason, Colony Red carob chocolates are a taste of what generations to come will be eating to satisfy a sweet craving.
The process for bulk chocolate production is decidedly more tedious and time consuming than the process required to produce carob chocolates. Since carob is naturally sweet, it requires no added sugar while still delivering the comforting flavor that all chocolate lovers crave. It’s silly to think that humans will forget comfort foods when they enter a new world or genetically be inclined to desire. Favorite foods of a distant past may not be forgotten, but change is imminent as adaptation to a new environment and way of life becomes crucial.
If the future of chocolate is carob chocolate, and the future of humanity tentatively lies in the colonization of moons and other planets, then we as a species need to acquire the means to produce nutritious and comforting food on our off world colony. The innovation and adaptation of terrestrial trees is only of many attempts to successfully grow food in space. So far, Colony Cacao tree hypothesis may be the first of these experiments to address the future of chocolate. This of course means bulk chocolate producers and chocolate wholesalers alike will have to enlist the help of scientists to engineer a solution for our otherworldly future. This is a future which could very well lie in carob chocolates. The human colonization of the fourth planet may still seem farfetched to some, but this is ultimately the goal of SpaceX. Founded by Elon Musk in 2002, SpaceX was founded to not only revolutionize aerospace, but also with the vision of making humans a multi-planetary species. (www.spacex.com) SpaceX has in fact revolutionized the field of space exploration. They are the first privately held space exploration company to launch satellites and recycle them. When SpaceX initially launches a rocket, the hardware is returned to Earth and reused again, which has saved exorbitant amounts of money. SpaceX has gained fame and become an authority in the field of space exploration through their rocket launches. While this is a staple of their business operations, the company is not shy about their original vision, which is the human colonization of the fourth planet.
The Gift That Keeps Giving
The future of food, chocolate and mankind will quintessentially be dependent on our means of food production in a more efficient methodology. Our environment, way of life and even planet may change, but the need for food to sustain us remains constant. The solution to producing food in space is dependent on how well we can grow plants in spacecraft or on the surface of another planet. The Red Planet's surface has only about 60% of Earth’s light intensity and is covered in alkaline soil contaminated with perchlorate. Martian soil has proven to be inhospitable for many plants, but with research and development, the Colony Cacao tree could possibly survive in this unforgiving terrain. The bioengineering of plants from Earth seems necessary for the purpose of enriching the Martian soil in order to produce fruitful harvests. If Colony Cacao hybrid trees can grow and even thrive as a food source in colonies, carob chocolates may become more than just a taste of the future, but rather the building blocks of several foods of the future. Life on off world colonies may very well depend on this former chocolate substitute, making carob a food staple of future generations. Early settlers of a Martian colony will most likely be limited in resources, and may end up surviving on a vegan diet that largely consists of different variations of carob. Since our diet is likely to be vegan, and resources will be limited, Colony Cacao trees could be the beginning of many carob hybrids used to sustain human life elsewhere in our solar system. If carob hybrids are the champion of plant survival, we might end up eating some variation of it for three meals a day. This of course is all dependent upon finding the correct plant combinations and successful bioengineering. Carob has sustained humans during famines of ancient times, and it may very well be what saves us in mankind’s next chapter. The creation of Colony Red carob chocolates is a direct result of researching the great riddle of how humans will eat in the future. Colony Cacao trees could produce a unique and healthy food intended for Earth, and someday for our future on an off world planet.