Native Crops of Peru – Pure Nacional Cacao
In 2007, Pure Nacional, a variety of the cacao tree was rediscovered in Peru, to the world’s chocolate makers it was a delight. In 1916 the plant was hit by disease and within a few years 100% of the trees were destroyed and the Pure Nacional species of cacao tree was put in the list of extinct species. The cacao tree is highly susceptible to diseases and insect pests.
Chocolate from Pure Nacional Cacao
Pure Nacional was found growing in the valley of the Marañon Canyon which flows north along the eastern edge of the Andes Mountains. The lower elevation of the canyon is 854 meters above sea level and the highest 3000 meters. The different altitudes of the canyon create microclimates which provide the perfect climatic environment for this species of tree. Different varieties of the tree were found growing at different altitudes.
Cocoa beans drying under the sun
Almost a century ago this cocoa plant was known for its purple seeds and was highly prized for its fruit and floral flavors. This time around the pods contained 60% purple and 40% white beans, and in some cases the pods contained only white beans. After genetic studies from the USDA Sustainable Perennial Crops Laboratory they found that this is a new species of the Pure Nacional cacao tree and that they are endemic to Peru. This discovery adds to the 5,300 types of cacao trees in the International Cacao database.
It took two years to find the technique to process the white beans into chocolate but they finally managed. The fine and rare beans are marketed by Marañon Chocolate.
More about Native Crops of Peru
They come in different shapes and colors, many shades of purple, blue, violet, pink, red, brown and yellow, pink with brown spots, yellow with pink spots and endless combinations.
The name Theobroma means “food of the gods” in Greek. Cacao comes from the word cacahuatl from the Nahuatl language used by the Aztecs.
Peru has a great variety of food due to its many microclimates and elevations and its proximity to the Pacific Ocean. It features one of the best cuisines in South America.