A Chocolate Tree!

Chocolate tree

Theobroma cacao (chocolate) seedling

How to grow a chocolate tree (and muscle in on Côte D’Ivoire as the world’s top cacao producer).

3 easy steps

First, befriend a swarthy Ecuadorian farmer whose Willy Wonka grove is bisected by the pale though torrid line known as the equator (a line so pale that no one has yet to see it, so torrid that your mint-chocolate-chip ice cream melts before it hits the bowl). Second, beg for seeds. Third, plant them and start planning your empire.

But how will Cadbury deal with having to bring another cacao producer into the fold? Outstanding question. So I asked an expert. And since the nearest Cadbury office is several parsecs from the muddy outskirts of my garden patch, I settled for the next best thing: I asked an esurient, ponytailed girl who was sitting on a park bench, happenstantially and rapturously partaking in the pleasure that attends the manifold rituals associated with decimating a candy bar, the silvery wrapper glinting in the sunlight and seeming to somehow connect, for several incomprehensible moments, with a distant galaxy, her lips smothered with heavenly milk chocolate–in the selfsame way a cherub’s lips would be bespattered!–and her damask-tinged face radiating pure joy. So I asked her, “What’s the lowdown on new chocolate producing countries?” She smiled, arrantly, and left.

You are probably asking yourself what there is to learn from such an encounter. And the answer is patience. For patience is the stuff dreams are made of (I hate it when Humphrey Bogart steals and then mangles, with pitiless efficacy, my best lines). But enough of the Maltese Falcon. And come to think of it, maybe that bird was made of chocolate!



Cinnamon seed

How to grow a cinnamon tree.

Do you love cinnamon? Now you can grow your own tree in the privacy of your own home.

3 easy steps

1) Befriend someone living in Sri Lanka. You can probably do this using Social Media, as I am given to understand that anything worthwhile can nowadays be achieved this way (as an aside I was always under the cloudy impression that only birds, and here I’m recollecting from the insuperable annals of my childhood the spectacle of little budgies enlivening a pea-green cage, tweeted). Just don’t blame me if your Sri Lankan friend actually turns out to be some plumber holed up in Baltimore, having delusions of grandeur about owning a farm on some balmy island.

2) Convince the Sri Lankan to locate a cinnamon tree. Make sure he doesn’t mistake it for some other kind of laurel or a licentious weed with aromatic leaves—so easy to do. If your cohort is married, ask him to have his wife confirm the find, as wives are generally speaking better at practical botanical matters than humble workaholic plumber husbands.

3) Once the tree has been identified your contact should set up a makeshift tent near the site and wait patiently till the specimen blooms (this may take several months, and if your botanist is in fact in Baltimore, it may take considerably longer—still, hope springs eternal).

4) I realize this is more than three steps, but I find more and more that one has the tendency to underestimate the complexity of life. Some years elapse (nothing we can do about this) and the tree blooms fortuitously, setting seed. In the interim, quite regrettably, our Sri Lankan dies of some rare blood disorder. His wife, bless her heart, thankfully consents to send the fresh seed using Sri Lanka Express Post-what other choice does she have? All other methods of shipping, carrier pigeon and most couriers, involve interminable delays.

5) Once you receive the seeds, add water to the plastic sleeve (see accompanying photo) and wait.

6) In a few days a miracle occurs. Unfortunately you were occupied elsewhere and missed it. Still, there are more seeds awaiting divine inspiration and you should lickety-split be on your way to starting your own plantation.

Cinnamonum verum seedling

Cinnamonum verum seedling