| FOOD CHAIN No. 9 - July 1993 |
The pulp juice and fruit pods of the cocoa plant are usually discarded as waste. But they can be put to good use: from the pulp juice it is possible to make refreshing drinks, wine, jams, jellies, and even vinegar. The crushed pods can be used in animal feed and as a fertilizer. Werner Baensch describes how the waste can be turned into money making products using relatively simple methods.
For small family farms additional income is vital for survival and such sources of cash are especially important when sales of the farm's main crop are subject to extreme price fluctuations on the world market. When the price of coffee and cocoa crashes, for example, producers feel the full impact. If the family has no financial reserves to keep it going it may even lose its livelihood.
Where cocoa is a farm's primary product, this additional income could be earned by making appetizing foods and drinks from cocoa residues during the harvest period, on the principle that 'if the cocoa market is going to crash, use the crop to gain good cash!' The methods involved are easy, and saleable products can be made and marketed without having to buy any major items of equipment: those methods described here have already been tested by women's groups in the Dominican Republic.
PRODUCTS FROM PULP
The foods and drinks are made from the fruity, sweet pulp juice, or a puree of the cocoa fruit. This juice begins to drip out as soon as the cocoa pods have been opened and the cocoa beans removed. In fully ripe fruits the pulp juice contains up to 15 per cent sugar (glucose and fructose), as well as enough fruit acid and pectin to enable pleasant-tasting juices, wines and jams to be made
To obtain a high juice yield (8-10 per cent of the harvest-fresh cocoa bean weight) and to ensure fast, hygienic processing, it is advisable to open the cocoa fruits in the immediate vicinity of the production facility, i.e. where the cocoa is fermented. The present harvest practice, common throughout the country, of opening the pods in the field, inevitably leads to considerable losses of pulp juice during transport to the production facility, as well as a drop in quality due to contamination of the pulp juice by undesirable micro organisms.
As soon as the cocoa beans have been transferred to the fermentation boxes, the white fruit pulp adhering to them liquefies, due to the action of enzymes that break down pectin A milky pulp juice with a very fruity flavour is produced. It is advisable to fit a collecting trough to the fermentation boxes so that the juice can flow off hygienically and without loss into a tank.
Farmers who practice heap fermentation at ground level should extract the pulp juice beforehand using a basket or bag press In this way the juice yield will be higher and it will be obtained more quickly. Separating the pulp juice does not affect the quality of cocoa fermentation. By adding drinking water, sugar and a little lemon juice (optional) to the pulp juice, a pleasant tasting, refreshing drink can be made. If poured into sterile bottles, sealed and pasteurized, the drink will keep for several weeks with or without subsequent cold storage Using suitable yeast cultures (ordinary yeast or special varieties for making fruit wine), the pulp juice can be turned into a fine, harmonious fruit wine which, depending on the natural sugar content or the amount of sugar added, has an alcohol content of up to 12 per cent. However, careful control of fermentation and maturing are essential if satisfactory results are to be achieved. As a dry table wine or a sweet dessert wine, a product of this kind will soon find a market.
Pulp juices which have started fermenting, are slightly contaminated or were pressed late can still be used to make table vinegar. So if something goes wrong during the first attempt at making wine, it doesn't mean that all the materials and effort have been wasted.
A tasty jelly, which is eaten as a sweet spread or dessert, can be made by adding sugar or cane-juice to the fresh pulp juice and chopped fruit-pulp residues. They can also be combined with other fruits, which may have poorer setting properties, to make very tasty jams. To ensure consistent quality one should always use standard recipes, and the individual steps in the process should be carefully co-ordinated. The market is highly sensitive to fluctuations in quality. For small production facilities quality control can be limited to organoleptic tests; (taste, appearance, clarity and odor). Any imperfect products should not be marketed at all.
An aromatic wine, with a typical cocoa flavour, can be made from the fermented, dried and freshly roasted cocoa beans. After removing outer shells, the cocoa beans arc finely crushed (though not ground to a pulp), and then mixed with drinking water and sugar according to the recipe. Yeast is then added. Under tropical conditions, alcoholic fermentation is complete within 30 days. The wine is then carefully decanted off and after several weeks storage the cocoa wine then develops its elegantly spicy bouquet. A last filtration before bottling is advisable, to avoid any deposit in the bottle. The bouquet of cocoa wine improves considerably if it is left in the bottle for at least a year.
PROCESSING THE COCOA PODS
This description of cocoa by products would not be complete without mentioning that the hard cocoa pods can be processed to produce protein-rich animal feed. The pods are pre-crushed in a hammer mill and then dried in the sun. It is advisable subsequently to grind them into fine meal, to make it easier to mix with other materials such as maize. As the pods contain theobromine, a natural alkaloid, they should not be fed pure to livestock. Studies have shown that 10 per cent cocoa-pod meal mixed with other forage meal is nutritionally safe
By grinding cocoa pods into fragments and then composting them under a plastic sheet, a fertilizer can be produced which contains minerals, is rich in nitrogen and has nematocidal properties (kills the parasitic nematodes which attack roots). It is, therefore, possible to replace costly and toxic pesticides with low-cost, environmentally friendly products. Most households have the utensils and equipment needed to get more out of their cocoa harvest. It is simply a matter of using them for productive purposes, whether to meet their own needs, to earn a little extra money, or to generate continuous additional income.