Valentine’s Day! Chocolate 101

Here’s a brief look at where chocolate comes from, nutritional information, how it’s made, and the ingredients that make chocolate — whether milk, dark or white — a memorable treat.Cocoa Seeds, Not BeansCocoa comes from the cocoa plant grown in the remote areas of West Africa, Asia and South America. While often called cocoa beans, cocoa plants actually are large, brightly colored pods filled with many seeds.Cocoa to ChocolateCocoa seeds are removed from the pod, dried and roasted, giving them a distinct dark color and unique flavor. After roasting, cocoa seeds are ground into a paste called chocolate liquor. The liquor separates into dry cocoa and cocoa butter, or fat.Chocolate IngredientsCocoa is heated and combined with other ingredients, such as sugar and milk, to create chocolate bars and candy. Dark chocolate is at least 35 percent cocoa liquor; and milk chocolate, 10 percent. White chocolate has cocoa butter, but no chocolate liquor. Chocolate contains protein, magnesium, and flavanols (antioxidants). Dark chocolate has caffeine; white chocolate does not. Dairy-based chocolate provides calcium.Chocolate SafetyThe roasting process kills bacteria on the cocoa seeds. Because of the high fat, low moisture content, chocolate generally does not spoil. …

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Plants ‘talk’ to plants to help them grow

May 7, 2013 — Having a neighborly chat improves seed germination, finds research in BioMed Central’s open access journal BMC Ecology. Even when other known means of communication, such as contact, chemical and light-mediated signals, are blocked, chilli seeds grow better when grown with basil plants. This suggests that plants are talking via nanomechanical vibrations.


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Monica Gagliano and Michael Renton from the University of Western Australia attempted to grow chilli seeds (Capsicum annuum) in the presence or absence of other chilli plants, or basil (Ocimum basilicum). In the absence of a neighboring plant, germination rates were very low, but when the plants were able to openly communicate with the seeds more seedlings grew.

However when the seeds were separated from the basil plants with black plastic, so that they could not be influenced by either light or chemical signals, they germinated as though they could still communicate with the basil. A partial response was seen for fully grown chilli plants blocked from known communication with the seeds.

Dr Gagliano explained, “Our results show that plants are able to positively influence growth of seeds by some as yet unknown mechanism. Bad neighbors, such as fennel, prevent chilli seed germination in the same way. We believe that the answer may involve acoustic signals generated using nanomechanical oscillations from inside the cell which allow rapid communication between nearby plants.”

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The above story is reprinted from materials provided by BioMed Central Limited.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.


Journal Reference:

  1. Monica Gagliano and Michael Renton. Love thy neighbour: facilitation through an alternative signalling modality in plants. BMC Ecology, 2013 DOI: 10.1186/1472-6785-13-19

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