The world might be running out of chocolate! For the last few decades, we've been consuming more chocolate than we're able to produce. This is mostly due to the fact that a majority of the world's cocoa plants are being threatened by a fungus known as witch's broom. In the 1960's a scientist named Homero Castro decided to take it upon himself to invent a new strain of the cocoa plant that would be resistant to this type of fungus.
He traveled to a cocoa farm in Ecuador that had been devastated by witch's broom, and began cross-breeding plants to find a new strain. He failed 50 times until strain number 51 finally produced results. He called it CCN 51. The strain was resistant to witch's broom and also produced over four times the amount of cocoa pods than the traditional cocoa plant. The only problem was, CCN 51 made its cocoa taste like absolute garbage.
In 1988, Castro passed away unexpectedly, and soon after South America was once again ravaged by witch's broom. Chocolate makers needed CCN 51 to keep up with the high demand for chocolate. They began developing a new fermentation process to try and overcome the sour flavor of the cocoa. Many chocolatiers feel that they've accomplished that goal and are now able to produce high yields of chocolate that taste like it came from the original cocoa plant. None of this would've been possible without Castro, whose first cocoa plant still stands tall today, over 46 years later.
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Read more about developments of the cocoa plant:
NPR: Ecuador's Answer to the Global Cocoa Shortage
WSJ: A Sour Bean Sweetens Cocoa Supply