By W. Cradwick, Superintendent of Hope Gardens.
The following instructions to those who grow cacao on a small scale have been issued by the Department of Public Gardens and Plantations, Jamaica, and appeared in the Bulletin of that department for July, 1895:
The first important point to be observed when about to cure cacao is that it must be quite ripe, but not over-ripe. The pods must have attained their full color, whatever it may be, but if the beans shake about easily then the pod is over-ripe. The reason is, that if the beans are not ripe, the mucilaginous matter covering the beans is not properly developed into the stage when it will readily ferment. If left to get over-ripe, the mucilage commences to liquify.
The best vessel in which a small cultivator can ferment cacao is an ordinary flour barrel. To prepare this for the reception of cacao beans, first bore about a dozen holes, each a half an inch in diameter, in the bottom of the barrel; then place about ten inches of banana trash in the bottom of the barrel. Line the sides also thickly with trash, and have a sufficient quantity on hand to cover the beans when placed in the barrel. When the barrel is ready, break the whole of the pods and place the beans in the barrel, covering with the banana trash. The beans must be left to ferment for two days, then remove one-third of the beans, lay them in a heap on the floor, and mix them thoroughly. Remove the balance of the beans, and mix them also, but do not put the two heaps together. After placing fresh trash in the barrel, put the beans which were at the top back into the bottom of the barrel, and those which were at the bottom, place at the top. Cover with the trash in the same way as before, and leave for two more days, when the beans should be treated in exactly the same way as before. They should then be left for two more days, when they should be taken out and washed thoroughly.
On the day the beans are finally removed from the barrel the work should be commenced very early in the morning, so as to get all the sun possible on the first day, for the beans mildew very quickly. They should be washed immediately after they are taken out of the barrel, as this helps to keep them plump.
The proper amount of cacao to ferment in one barrel is the quantity of beans obtained from 1,000 ordinary sized pods. If many more than this number are put into one barrel the fermentation is too great, and the beans turn black.
If a less quantity, say, below 700 pods, is to be fermented, the green trash and more of it must be used, and a weight not exceeding 28 pounds placed on top, which helps the fermentation. During the time of drying the cacao it is not desirable to expose it after the first two days to the extreme heat of the midday sun; it is better to take it in about nine o'clock, and then put it out again between three and four o'clock. Those who use the evaporators are warned against an excessively high temperature.
Great care must be taken when removing the pods from the trees that they be cut off with a good, sharp knife, not pulled off. If pulled off, the little knob at the base of the stem of the pod is injured, and the tree will not bear from the same spot the following year. If the pods are cut off carefully, the tree goes on bearing from the same spot year after year.
The American Journal of Pharmacy, Vol. 67, 1895, was edited by Henry Trimble.