Thursday, February 17, 2011

Growing Chocolate

Disclaimer for my gourmet cook friends:  "I know these chocolate products are not TOP of the line but they work well for many things."  OK, now that's out of the way - did you ever think about growing your own chocolate?  Wouldn't it be great to walk out the door and grab a handful of chocolate turtles, a bowl of M&Ms, a cup of hot chocolate or a handful of Donnelly's chocolate bonbons. 

And now the reality:  Farmers grow cocoa trees on small farms in hot, rainy environments, mostly in areas near the equator.  So much for the Midwest becoming the next cocoa production center of the world.  As an alternative to growing cocoa, there are several chocolate type plants available to gardeners.

Here are a couple of possibilities for our area:

Berlandiera lyrata (Chocolate smelling flower)  Perennial - cold hardy to Zone 3.

Cosmos atrosanguineus (Chocolate smelling Cosmos) An annual in our zone.   
Cosmos atrosanguineus (Chocolate Smelling Cosmos) also an annual in our cold Zone 5.

Visit the web site for more "all plants chocolate" experience.  Seriously, they even have chocolate infused bath crystals - talk about "yea babe" fun.

Many plants may have chocolate names and quite a few have colors close to chocolate brown.  Some chocolate called flowers are actually a dark maroon.  I've seen chocolate scented flowers at local nurseries.

Since many chocolate named plants are dark or in shades of brown, they look better when planted either with bright surroundings and plants, as specimans, or in a chocolate themed garden patch.

There is a fine line between rich chocolate toned browns and dead looking browns.  Know your plant. 

Scented flowers are excellent planted beside walking paths or where they may be touched and smelled up close.  Many scented leaves have to be crushed or brushed for the scent to be released.
Health Experts are now saying a little dark chocolate isn't unhealthy and does not cause the heart problems attributed to the fat content.  It is often the other ingredients (caramel, nuts, and other rich favorites) that cause health issues if eaten in excess. 

On this warm but rather dreary day, bring on a cup of hot dark chocolate - mmmmm yum. 

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