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I've been told that young leaves make for excellent salad but I also recall reading that cocoa leaves have a level of toxicity, so I'm not sure if they are safe for consumption. Please share your knowledge on this issue.

I'm also curious if there are any culinary uses for the cocoa flowers, on their own I would assume that it is not recognizable to most people, and they're not very big to begin with.

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Hi Ning-Geng,

In our book chapter on cacao chemistry
Bletter, N. and D. Daly. 2006. " Cacao and its relatives in South America: An overview of taxonomy, ecology, biogeography, chemistry, and ethnobotany" in Cameron L. McNeil ed. Chocolate in Mesoamerica: A Cultural History of Cacao, University Press of Florida.

we found the following compounds in cacao leaves reported in other sources:
caffeine 0.06±trace mg/g
theobromine 1.12±0.02 mg/g
This compares with the seed which contains around 10 mg/g of theobromine and about 0.6 mg/g caffeine, so the seed which you eat as chocolate has much higher levels of both of these.

In some other Theobroma species, like T. grandiflorum (cupuaçu) there is
tetramethyl urate 0.07±trace mg/g
tetramethyluric acid unreported amount

tetramethyl urate is found in the seeds of T. grandiflorum and T. bicolor also at higher quantities of 2.60±0.52 mg/g, and these seeds are often eaten in Mexico and S. America as cupulate and pataxte, respectively.

We haven't found any other compounds listed in cacao leaves, but that doesn't mean they're not there. Traditionally we've only found reports of cacao leaves being used medicinally for listlessness, snakebites, and as a diuretic in S. America. Generally if there's not a traditional use of a plant as a food in its native area where people have likely been experimenting with it for thousands of years, I wouldn't try it, since people have probably tried it at some point and figured out it's not safe.

I have seen no reports of the toxicity of the flowers, one way or another. Most flowers, especially in the Mallow/Hibiscus family that cacao is in, are safe to eat, but they are so small and each flower you eat could mean one less cacao pod with much more delicious pulp and seeds, so why bother eating them?


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