Chances are that, even if you’re not a hardcore chocolate nerd, you’ve probably seen the cacao fruit before.
Pictures of open cacao pods are now triumphantly shown on the packaging of many chocolate bars. More articles online are dedicated to where chocolate comes from and how it’s made, showing the entire process from seed to the finished chocolate slab. Let’s just say that there has never been more educational material about chocolate than in the last two years.
However, not much attention is given to that mysterious white pulp that surrounds the cacao beans inside the fruit. Briefly mentioned regarding the fermentation process, the white pulp has much more to say (and to offer) to chocoholics than just its temporary use in chocolate making.
What is cacao pulp?
The cacao pulp, also called “baba” or “mucilage”, is a white, sticky and fleshy substance that surrounds the cacao beans inside the pod. Not only it is totally edible for both animals and humans, but it is also gifted with a unique and enchanting taste. (My traveling friends felt it had a more citrus taste to it.) Most people find the pulp to be a mixture of Fruity, sweet, tangy and slightly acidic, the cacao pulp offers the perfect mix of tropical fruits like mango, pineapple, passion fruit, and lychee. Exactly like it happens with the cacao beans, also the pulp has different tasting profiles depending on the cacao variety.
For example, or so I have been led to believe, some pulps taste a lot like sweet mangoes, while others are more pungent like a pineapple, or citrusy like a lime. Together with a refreshing taste, the cacao pulp also comes with a long array of nutritional properties: Vitamin E, D, B, and magnesium to name a few. It’s known that jungle animals, especially monkeys, don’t even consider the cacao beans, (they are far too bitter) but aim at the sweet pulp.
They open the pods, discard the beans, and enjoy the tasty substance. In the production of chocolate, the opposite happens: 75% of the cacao pulp is discarded, and the remaining 25% is used during fermentation.