Bob and Pam Cooper acquired more than 1,800 cacao trees in Holualoa over a decade ago and established the Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory. They’ve been processing 100 percent Hawaii-grown cacao into chocolate products ever since. Bob also grows and sells cacao trees, encouraging others to grow this valuable crop. West Hawaii now has many cacao growers and several budding artisanal chocolate makers.
Cacao originated in the Amazon and Orinoco River basins of Ecuador and Brazil, and has been cultivated in Central and South America for thousands of years. Theobroma, the genus of the cacao tree, translates to “food of the gods” and the resulting chocolate was once reserved solely for the pleasure of Aztec kings.
Today, cacao growing and chocolate making is a global industry, but with more local growers and those making chocolate with locally grown ingredients, localvores can satisfy their chocolate urge with a reduced carbon footprint.
Cacao is a tropical rain forest tree and thrives in areas with temperatures above 50 degrees and about 60 inches of annual rainfall or good irrigation. It is especially well-suited to areas in Kona that get a cool afternoon cloud cover. You might consider adding a few cacao trees, if your growing conditions are suitable.
By Norman Bezona
Neem is one of the most ancient and widely used plants of the warm temperate and tropical regions of the world. Its medicinal qualities are outlined in the earliest Sanskrit writings that date back some 6,000 years. Modern scientists are finding even more uses for this remarkable tree.
Fortunately, both trees and products are being supplied by some local farmers and stores. My favorites are neem toothpaste, soap and oils. For example, I have been using the oils to treat sun-damaged skin. Rough patches of skin that can potentially become skin cancer began to fade and finally disappear after a few weeks of daily application. Since using the toothpaste for several years, I have not had a cavity, so neem uses are worth exploring. Neem mulch might be effective to repel insects like the coffee cherry borer and rose beetles that hide in soils around host plants.
Farmers and home gardeners plant crops and create landscapes for many reasons. The more useful plants, including neem, can often be seen growing in many parts of the world. On the island of Hispanola, which is shared by the Dominican Republic and Haiti, this medicinal tree has become a lifesaver when other medicines are unavailable. Some folks there plant for beauty but most often it is to supply food, medicine, clothing, or craft and building materials.