Cacao is a tall tropical tree that can reach 4 to 12 meters tall. The cacao tree produces an average of 150 fruits every year. These fruits are long oval pods called cacao pods. The pod color varies from yellow to orange.
Inside this pod are an average of about thirty cocoa beans. A white glutinous pulp covers each bean. The pulp is quite tasty when you pop it into your mouth and suck on it.
During the first drying, the entire seed with pulp is placed in the sun to dry. When dry the white pulp can easily be removed. The second drying is to dry the seed itself.
You can see these beans drying in many places in the country, even along country streets. The beans are laid out on tarpaulins or in large covered beds. They are constantly being moved to get them to dry. As the beans dry they are being picked over to clear out the inferior beans.
The dry beans are then cleaned, roasted and crushed into a powder. When you pass by cacao drying you can get the wonderful sent of the aromatic bean drying in the sun. With each step of the drying process, the smell gets more intense.
Dominican Republic is the perfect place for the cultivation and development of cacao because of the rich, fertile soil and the favorable climate. Individual farmers and large corporations grow cacao trees alike. The best cocoa beans in the country are grown in the Cibao Valley, San Francisco de Macoris, and Santiago. Dominican Republic produces two types of cocoa beans, the Hispaniola (about 4% production) and the Sanchez (about 96% production) varieties.
Cocoa beans/ Cacao is a very nutrient rich and complex food. Cacao is considered by some experts to be the best antioxidant food, having the highest source of magnesium of any food. Chocolate contains A1, B1, C, D, E vitamins and iron. The cacao beans are also used to produce cocoa butter that is used in many cosmetic applications. The Aztecs considered the cacao tree as a paradise tree.
The Dominican Republic is currently one of the chief producers of organic cocoa in the world when they started marketing their product as early as the 1980’s.
There is a Museo de Cacao on Calle el Conde and also on Calle Arz. Meriño in the Colonial Zone. They sell many different products made in Dominican Republic (including the Vino de Cacao pictured above)
Some of the many fruits and vegetables that grow in the Dominican Republic and their descriptions. Try a ripe yellow banana, a sweet, juicy pineapple or a tree-ripened mango. All are just too wonderful.
Lechosa / Papaya is a fruit grown on large trees in tropical climates. There are male and female trees and their offspring are the sweet fruit papaya. Here in the Dominican Republic it is called lechosa.
It is a large fruit green when unripe. When the fruit is ripe and ready for eating it is soft and yellow with some darker spots here and there. It is best eaten plain and is quite juicy. One of the best ways to serve it is to blend it with some milk or carnation and ice. It is called Batida de Lechosa. This is really tasty. The little black seeds inside are sometimes eaten, they have a little of a spicy taste. They are used as a substitute for pepper when dried and ground.
Mavi also spelled Mabi (pronounced Ma-Vee or sometimes Ma-Bee), is a staple in the Caribbean. This drink is made from the bark of the Mabi tree is also known as mabetree, soldierwood or seaside buckthorn. This bark is rich in glucosides (what is that you may ask? Wikipedia definition here) The bark is removed from the tree and boiled to make a tea. Sugar, usually raw or turbinado sugar is best as it has a little hint of molasses flavor to it. Many make this tea into the fermented drink by adding some yeast and letting it sit for a few days uncovered. It can also be made into a non-fermented drink as well. It is said to lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol, and to make men more potent.
In Dominican Republic Mabi de Bejuco Indio is usually made locally and can be purchased in the Colmados and corner markets. It can be found in almost any type of bottle as the maker uses what is available. It is very refreshing and can be sometimes potent so beware.
The Avocado of Dominican Republic has a variety of types and flavors. It is one of our most imported fruits. We import both organic and non-organic versions of the fruit.
Some avocados are dry and not as sweet and others have a much different taste than the ones on the grocery shelves that most people are accustomed to eating. When this creamy, nutty-flavored fruit (yes it is a fruit, not a vegetable) is in season it can be found in abundance in every market, on the streets and in most restaurants at a very reasonable price.
Dominicans use this beautiful green colored fruit on salads or just eaten plain with a little límon/ lime-lemon to accompany any meal, soup or stew. Make a sandwich using this fruit on some pan de agua and you will be quite pleased. Aguacate is also used in many cosmetic preparations. Just remember, it is fattening (about 75% of an avocado’s calories come from fat) so don’t over indulge. Avocados have more potassium than bananas, have the highest fiber content of any fruit and are rich in B, E and K vitamins. They are also known to lower the bad cholesterol and help with the good HDL levels.
Guineo / Banana (the sweet type of fruit you can eat raw) – Platano/ Plantain (the hard fruit that is very starchy and needs to be cooked) are some of the most recognizable fruits of the world.
Here in Dominican Republic we love our bananas. They can be purchased in almost every corner store (Colmado) and in the streets. A sweet banana is a very nice fruit to refresh yourself and get some of the sugar your body might need on a hot day.
These large, big leaved plants can produce many fruits. They taste better here in the Dominican Republic because they are ripened right on the plant and not picked green like the ones shipped to other destinations. Choose a red, yellow or green banana/ guineo that can be eaten without cooking. Try a green to yellow platano that needs to be cooked to be eaten either plain or served in many imaginative forms. A fresh sweet yellow banana, nothing tastes or smells better.
The pineapple, simply called piña here, can be found growing in Dominican Republic. The ones sold in the streets here are usually vine ripened. This makes the piña taste so much better than ones you get outside of the country.
They can be purchased in almost any spot in the country, especially when they are in season. Vendors always have them either whole or cut for you to enjoy right on the spot. Some vendors cut them in a spiral way that you can hold like a lollypop. Do not be afraid to eat the core as it is soft and sweet just like the outside fruit.
The Mango is a well-known fruit that grows on a tall tree. The tree makes lots of fruits that are very sweet and juicy. There are many different varieties of mangos grown in DR.
The mango makes for some messy eating and it is well worth the mess. I suggest eating it with a knife instead of just biting into the fruit. This way you get all the juice in your mouth and not down the arm. Also, the pulp is very stringy and if you don’t have dental floss or a toothpick handy you will be digging at your teeth all day trying to remove the little fibers from between and this can get annoying. Another way to enjoy an overly ripe mango is biting through the skin and just sucking out the juice. It may sound strange but you should try it. It is very satisfying.
Mango fruits are wonderful and refreshing so please do not pass them up. They make a wonderful Batida (blended frozen drink) with some ice, milk or carnation, and a little sugar in a blender. I love to freeze this milkshake type drink for a freshening icy treat.
Hurricane, Cyclone and Tropical Storm Information for Dominican Republic
Hurricanes (Huracán in Spanish) are devastating. Even if it is only a tropical storm it can be destructive. Here we hope to help you get prepared, endure and learn about hurricanes and how to survive them here in the Dominican Republic.
The work hurricane originates from the Tainos, the original occupants of this island of Hispaniola. Jurakan or Juracán, a Taino God, controlled the power of the hurricane. Jurakan controlled the water and winds. When he was angry a hurricane would appear. He was a very angry deity and was not easy to appease, this is why there are so many storms.
The Spanish who came to the island changed the word from Juracán to huracán. The English adapted the word to become the word hurricane that we use today.
The hurricane season in the Caribbean begins on June 1st and finishes in November. In Dominican Republic the most active months for a cyclone are usually mid August through September. The island gets a serious brush on average every 5.03 years. It is averaged that we get a direct hit once every 22.66 years.
We have had 22 hurricanes that have impacted the coast from 1871 to 2004 of which 5 were very devastating.
*September 3, 1930: Huracán San Zenón (4,500 (some accounts say more than 8,000) lives lost. This was one of the top five most devastating Caribbean cyclones)
*October 3, 1963: Huracán Flora (400 lives lost)
*September 26, 1966: Huracán Inés (60 lives lost)
*August 31, 1979: Huracán David (1,000+ lives lost)
*September 22, 1988: Huracán Georges (247 lives lost)
A hurricane is a type of tropical cyclone, the general term for all circulating weather systems over tropical waters. The hurricane moves counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere.
Tropical Disturbance or Tropical Wave is a random mass of thunderstorms, very little if any, organized wind circulation.
Tropical Depression is an organized system of clouds and thunderstorms with a defined circulation and maximum sustained winds of below 39 mph (34 knots) or less.
Tropical Storm is an organized system of strong thunderstorms with a defined circulation and maximum sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph (34-63 knots).
Hurricane is an intense tropical weather system with a well-defined circulation and maximum sustained winds of 74 mph (64 knots) or higher.
The hurricane is categorized from 1 (weakest) to 5 (strongest).
*Category 1 winds measure between 74 and 95 mph..(64-82 knots)
*Category 2 winds measure between 96 and 110 mph (83-95 knots)
*Category 3 winds measure between 111 and 130 mph. (96-113
*Category 4 sustainable winds between 131 and 155 mph. (114-
*Category 5 Sustainable winds over 155 mph. (135 knots and
Many hurricanes do weaken when and if they hit Dominican Republic because of its rough terrain. If a hurricane or Tropical storm does hit it is very devastating to the coastal areas. Obviously the wind, storm surge and rain are serious issues when we are hit with a hurricane. In the interior of the island heavy rainfall can cause mudslides, destroy mountain roads and homes.
HURRICANE WATCH means there is a possibility that you could experience hurricane conditions within 36 hours.
You need to prepare just to be safe. Secure the boat, make sure you have all the items ready for securing your home and belongings. Better to be safe than sorry.
HURRICANE WARNING means that sustained winds of at least 74 mph are expected within 24 hours or less.
If this warning has been issued people should be actively preparing for the storm. Also deciding the safest location to be during the storm.
The hurricane season in Dominican Republic usually lasts from the beginning of June to the end of November, with August and September being the months of greatest storm activity. The hotels and resorts are usually prepared in case a storm does strike while you are visiting. They will inform their guests what is best and may evacuate you to another place if necessary. In general, the island is prepared for these storms and the tourists are usually well taken care of. If a hurricane has hit and you are planning a vacation here call ahead and make sure all is still ready for your arrival.
Many of the buildings in Dominican Republic are made from blocks, cement, iron rods, sand and gravel. These materials are generally weather-resistant. There are also many buildings and homes with tin roofs. These can become deadly when they become dislodged. Also, watch out for flying coconuts.
A large hurricane named Georges hit Dominican Republic on September 22, 1998. It was a category 3. The one before that was hurricane David in 1979. This was a category 5. Thus, the likelihood of getting caught in a hurricane is very small. But, when a hurricane does strike there is a good chance there will be destruction. The threat of a possible approaching hurricane should always be taken seriously and all necessary precautions should be taken.
What To Do In Case Of a Hurricane
If you are not in a major hotel or are living on the island and there is a hurricane threat here are a few things you can do to keep yourself safe. Please be prepared in advance. There are many web sites with complete lists on how to ready in the care of a tropical storm or hurricane. This is a short list of what to do so you can be prepared.
*Know the evacuation routes or know someone that knows the routes.
*Bring in things from the outside that can blow around. Anchor objects that cannot be brought inside.
*Secure windows with shutters, boards or tape.
*Stay inside, away from windows, skylights and glass doors.
*Keep a door or window open on the opposite side of the force of the wind to avoid a build-up of pressure that will suck your roof off.
*Fill up the gasoline tanks of all your vehicles.
*Fill baths and clean containers with water. Only drink water after it has been boiled for at least 5 minutes or after bleach has been added (eight drops/gallon) or use a water purifier.
*Make sure your propane gas tank supply is shut off at the time of the storm.
*Turn off electricity mains.
*Do not light candles or lighters until you are sure there are no escaped gas fumes close by.
*Make sure to have money because banks and ATMs may be temporarily shut down.
*Stay in a room without windows (bathroom, closet) if you are staying in your home.
*Do not use the telephone except for emergencies.
*If the eye of the storm happens to pass over your area, make sure not to venture outside, as the ferocious back end of the hurricane is still to follow. You should also be very careful what you do after a hurricane has passed. People are frequently killed after a hurricane passes due to electric shocks from fallen wires or lacerations.
Emergency Information Pamphlet
The National Weather Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) published a Hurricane Safety Guide to help all be prepared in case of a Tropical Storm. It is very complete and informative.
If you live on the island try and have a good plastic tote box filled with necessities just in case the worse happens.
*Food that doesn’t need to be cooked.
*Basic utensils and can opener.
*Soaps and bathroom supplies.
*First aid supplies.
*Flashlights, matches, candles and batteries.
*Camping stove and fuel.
*Clothing and rain gear.
*Some basic tools.
*Whatever else you may need to live for a time to make it a bit more comfortable like a book or magazine.
Make sure, if you do decide to leave your home, that you give yourself plenty of time. Do so by heading inland until the storm has passed. If The Dominican Republic Emergency Operations Center / Centro de Operaciones de Emergencias (COE) (checking their web site click on ALERTAS) announces that your area is an evacuation area, it will tell you where the shelters are located and you should go immediately.
Caring For Pets
Remember you cannot take animals, alcohol, or firearms into a shelter. More information about securing your pet in case of a hurricane on the Dominican Dog Blog “Dog Care For Hurricane Season” (written in English and Spanish).
Weathernerds provides weather data in a flexible, practical interface.
Link for information on Hurricane David at Hurricane City (born August 31-died September 4, 1974) hit Dominican Republic September 1, 1979. The storm’s highest wind speed was 174 MPH and was the strongest storm to hit the Dominican Republic since 1930.
Hurricane City has interesting information and a radio program to listen to when there are hurricanes that need reported on.
Legend has it that former President Joaquín Balaguer made a pact with The Virgen de la Altagracia (who is Altagracia?) so the country would not have any large hurricanes…read more on the Myths and Legends page Balaguer and His Hat.
Tropical Storm Jeanne
This is a picture of Tropical Storm Jeanne when it briefly reached hurricane strength passing over Dominican Republic on September 16, 2004. This picture was taken at 1:55 p.m. Dominican time while the storm had sustained winds of 120 kilometers per hour (75 mph) with stronger gusts, and was moving west at 11 km/hr (7 mph). Jeanne was down graded to a tropical storm after its encounter with the island of Hispaniola.