GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 22 March)—A corporate executive turned on-the-ground farmer in Malungon town, Sarangani province, shared his unique experience of harvesting a cacao fruit whose pulp has similarities with the exotic durian fruit.
“My first time harvesting this kind of fruit. Durian like cacao or cacao like durian?” Edmundo Cejar remarked when this writer dropped by his farm on Tuesday, March 21.
Now a septuagenarian, the former company executive, who retired a decade ago from a jet-setting corporate life with a multinational firm based in the Netherlands, came back to the country to live a simple life as a hinterland farmer.
The harvest Cejar referred to is his first crop of what he called “A durian in a cacao! Its flesh has the aroma and sweet taste of a durian.”
Unlike the usual cacao, “the flesh covering the seeds can be eaten fresh and it tastes like durian,” he said. Unlike durian that its fruit hangs from its trunk and branches, Cejar said his durian cacao bears its fruit at the tip of its branches.
Engineer Nenita Barroso, of the Department of Trade and Industry in Sarangani who was present when the durian cacao was opened, nodded in agreement that it is durian-like, saying the pulp indeed smells like the exotic king of fruits. “The taste is a mix of jackfruit and durian,” she said.
In his excitement, Cejar posted his durian cacao on Facebook and it went viral, drawing thousands of reactions, comments and queries from netizens. The post has been shared more than 5,000 times.
There were those asking Cejar how they can order seedlings.
Cacao is not new to Cejar who plants a variety of crops and trees in Rio Vista Farm and Forest, his 30-hectare or so property along a stream that he shares with his siblings and children.
Cejar said the seeds of this rare cacao came from his sister Helen who owns a farm in Digos City. “She gave me six seeds to plant four years ago and this is the first fruit of those,” he said.
Helen had told his brother the beans of the durian cacao can be roasted and ground like ordinary cacao for tablea (chocolate block). She said they found the rare cacao tree growing in a forest near their farm.
“Like durian which falls when already ripe, we waited until the durian cacao fell to the ground,” Cejar said.
In his curiosity, Cejar combed the net for knowledge about the rare cacao-like fruit, leading him to such information that the fruit could have come originally from Mexico or South America.
The website Seeds del Mundo (Seeds of the World) said the fruit’s scientific name is Theobroma bicolor, a rare tropical rainforest fruit related to cacao.
It said the seeds can be made into chocolate or eaten fried or made into soups. It said the Theobroma bicolor is a type of cocoa of which mainly the flesh is eaten. In contrast to the other species, the flesh is thick around the kernel.
The website states that the seeds can also be eaten or dried and processed into cocoa. The quality of the cocoa is somewhat less than that of its counterparts.
The tree can reach a height of three to eight meters.
This tropical fruit is mainly found in Central America and South America. It is also found in the Amazon rainforest in Brazil, Surinam, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, according to the website.
Theobroma Bicolor is the only species in the Rhytidocarpus section of Theobroma. Its seeds can be eaten when fried or roasted. Some cultures add the seeds in soups or you can make chocolate from it, just like the “normal” Theobroma cacao, but with some adjustments.
Seeds del Mundo has noted some differences between the “normal commercial Theobroma cacao” and the Theobroma Bicolor or “Jaguar Cacao”:
• The Bicolor contains less fat
• The Bicolor contains more protein
• The bicolor contains more fiber
• When making chocolate with the Bicolor you can roast the seeds higher because of the lower fat density
• When making chocolate you need to add more butter because of the higher fiber density
• When making chocolate: the color of the Bicolor does not change while roasting
With their first harvested durian cacao, Cejar said that they only ate the fleshy aromatic pulp instead of roasting the beans.
“If you can wait, I will germinate and make seedlings out of the 21 seeds in the pod and propagate it,” Cejar jokingly said to netizens asking for seedlings of the rare plant. (Rommel G. Rebollido / MindaNews)