These are chewing gum trees. But no matter how closely you look, you will not see sticks of chewing gum hanging from them. The chewing gum comes from inside the tree. What do you think these canvas bags are filled with? Milk from a cow? No. They are filled with chewing gum-at least that’s what it will be. This is chicle, the stuff that chewing gum is made of. Chicle comes from the sapodilla tree.
The men who take the chicle out of the trees are called chicleros. The chiclero makes cuts high in bark of a sapodilla tree. The thick white juice runs slowly down the cuts in the bark into the chiclero’s bag. After the chicle has been collected, it is boiled in kettles until most of the water is gone. As it cools, the chicle is formed into blocks. These blocks are sent to a factory to be made into chewing gum.
At the factory the chicle is made into a liquid. Any dirt or pieces of bark are taken out. Flavoring and sugar are put in. While the gum is still warm, it is passed between rollers to make it thin and flat. Then it is cut into strips and then into bite size pieces. Before a machine wraps each sticks of gum in paper, the sticks is dusted with powdered sugar so that it won’t stick. Another machine puts an outer wrapping around the wrapped sticks.
When you chew gum, your mouth and teeth squeeze all of the flavor and sugar out of the gum. The flavor or sugar is picked up by the juice in your mouth and swallowed. Pretty soon the gum doesn’t taste so good anymore. You say,” It’s lost its flavor.” Today chewing gum often is made of things other than chicle. When Columbus came to Africa the Indians were chewing gum made from spruce tree. You can still buy this kind of gum today in some places.
There is a kind of gum that holds together so well that we can blow air through it and stretch it into a gum balloon. You know what kind of gum that is. Bubble gum.