In the initial process of chocolate production, the flaky, papery skin of a cocoa beans to reveal the dense cocoa nib. The husks are then discarded….unless, some resourceful urban farmers like myself and Camilla were to come knocking on the factory door.
Turns out, these skins (similar to pistachio skins but thicker), can be repurposed as the most fragrant and beautiful garden mulch. Piles of the stuff give off a pungent chocolate scent, while repelling garden pests and locking in moisture around the roots of the plants. The rich brown color darkens (rather than fades) over time, and best of all, it is FREE.
Mast Brothers Chocolate recently opened a small factory near the Brooklyn Navy Yards, conveniently close to my home and studio. So, I popped in and asked if they could spare a few burlap sacks of husks for a good cause? I left the bags in my car for a few days before bringing them to MoMA PS1. I parked the Suburu in the sun, and bam! Instant, all natural, car air freshener.
***WARNING: Veterinarians have warned pet owners that cacao shells also naturally contain theobromine, the same ingredient that makes chocolate toxic to dogs. So, we will not be using this mulch in our home garden. Sadly, dogs are not allowed in the museum, so I think we are in the clear.