The pods of the Vanilla orchid are used to produce “vanilla”, a flavoring which can be used in ice cream, cookies and cakes.
This orchid originates from Central America. It can be grown in hot and wet tropical climates.
Basic information and facts
Vanilla originates from Mexico.
Mexico, Central America, the West Indies, Madagascar, Indonesia, Malaysia.
Annual, biennial, or perennial:
The plant has greenish-yellow flowers, with a diameter of about 5 cm. The flowers last only one day, during which they must be pollinated to produce fruits.
Fruits are long pods of usually 15 to 20 cm length.
Climate and weather:
Requires a hot tropical climate with high humidity.
Natural pollination of Vanilla can only be done by the Melipona bee (a stingless bee). In areas where this bee is not found, hand pollination is needed.
Vanilla orchid is a vine. Mature plants can be over 3 meters long.
Often grown from cuttings or by using tissue-culture techniques. Growing vanilla orchids from seed is very difficult.
Pods are picked when mature, but the moment of picking is very important for the quality. After picking, a curing process is needed to improve the value of the product. Curing involves several steps: killing, sweating, slow-drying, and conditioning. The conditioning involves storing pods several months in closed boxes, during which time the fragrance will develop.
Vanilla is commonly used in ice creams or in baking of cookies and cakes.
Did you know that?
After saffron, vanilla is the second most expensive spice.