Remember chocolate does grow on trees...
It’s all about chocolate at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) this Easter. Whilst its scientists work to avert a global shortage of the sweet treat, the Botanics Bunny Easter trail will be a timely reminder that chocolate does grow on trees.
As the worldwide appetite for chocolate increases by 2.5 per cent a year, RBGE’s tropical botanist Dr James Richardson and counterparts in Colombia and the United States of America, are trying to find new plant sources of cacao that add diversity to the varieties currently available for growing. This will make our chocolate supply more resilient to future climate change or pests and diseases that kill cocoa trees.
Chocolate will play a big part in the Botanics’ Easter Trail, thanks to support from Mackie’s of Scotland. Thousands of little bars, which have been refined, conched, tempered and moulded on the Mackie’s family run farm in Aberdeenshire, are now en route to the Garden. The Easter Trail will run from Saturday 6 to Monday 22 April. Young participants will join the Botanics Bunny on a quest to explore new frontiers, and those who complete the trail will receive one of the Mackie’s chocolate treats.
Dr Ian Edwards, RBGE’s Head of Public Programmes, said: “At Easter time it’s good to be reminded that chocolate does grow on trees and that flowers of cacao, like a third of all food plants, depend on insects for pollination. Children can discover this story’s sticky ending when they pick up their Mackie’s chocolate honeycomb bar.’’
He added: “People interested in seeing a specimen of Theobroma cacao, the plant that chocolate is derived from, should visit the Plants and People Glasshouse where we have one growing.’’
Research by Dr Richardson has demonstrated that Theobroma cacao has been around for 10 million years. He explained: “Our studies show that cacao is remarkably old for a plant species and confirms there has been adequate time for the evolution of a significant amount of genetic diversity within the species. By understanding the diversification processes of chocolate and its relatives we can contribute to the development of the industry.
“As with many crops, the extent of genetic material utilised from native populations is limited. Therefore, information on genetic diversity and related species would be invaluable for improving the quality and quantities of material that could be produced to meet the increasing demand.’’
For further information and images, please contact Sandra Donnelly on 0131 248 1037/07554115908 or Shauna Hay on 0131 2482900/07824529028.
Cocoa is an evergreen tropical tree, usually 5 to 8m tall. The flowers are small, yellowish white to pale pink and grow directly from the trunk. In the wild, cocoa flowers are pollinated by midges, which, when pollinated, develop into green cocoa pods that enlarge and ripen through yellow to brown.
Each tree produces about 20 to 30 pods a year, each containing about 30 to 40 cocoa beans. The annual crop from one tree is only enough to make about 500g of cocoa.
Cocoa is native to Mexico, Central America and northern South America (Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Brazil, Guyana, Surinam and French Guiana).
The edible properties of cocoa were discovered over 2,000 years ago by the local people of Central America living deep in the tropical rainforests, and chocolate was seen in Mexico by Christopher Colombus in 1502.The scientific name Theobroma cacao was given to the species by the botanist Carl Linnaeus in 1753, when he published it in his famous book Species Plantarum. Theobroma means “food of the gods” in Latin, and cacao is derived from the Nahuatl (Aztec language) word xocolatl, from xococ (bitter) and atl (water).
Mackie’s of Scotland uses specialist, industry-leading equipment to refine, conche and temper the chocolate that makes up the delicious bars.
Mackie’s has carried out extensive research and testing to perfect its milk and dark chocolate, and recently perfected its recipe to make its bars smoother and more indulgent. Mackie’s chocolate bars are available in little treat size (35g) or larger sharing (120g) sizes and in four flavours – reflective of Mackie’s ice cream flavours: Traditional milk chocolate, Honeycomb – milk chocolate flavoured with little pieces of puff candy also made by Mackie’s, a rich Dark chocolate – 70 per cent cocoa and a Mint Dark chocolate flavoured with a mint sugar crisp.
Mackie’s of Scotland produces milk and cream used to make its famous ice cream. In keeping with its ‘sky to scoop’ philosophy, the firm also produces everything from renewable energy to its own packaging.
Firmly established as one of the UK’s most popular take-home ice creams, Mackie’s diversified into making crisps in 2009 and added a dedicated £600,000 chocolate factory to its Aberdeenshire home farm in 2014.
The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) is a leading international research organisation delivering knowledge, education and plant conservation action around the world. In Scotland its four Gardens at Edinburgh, Benmore, Logan and Dawyck attract around a million visitors each year. It operates as a Non Departmental Public Body established under the National Heritage (Scotland) Act 1985, principally funded by the Scottish Government. It is also a registered charity, managed by a Board of Trustees appointed by Ministers. Its mission is “To explore, conserve and explain the world of plants for a better future”.
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