Vanilla is an intriguing and valuable spice used in cooking, skin care and aromatherapy. The history and process of vanilla production is as fascinating as the spice itself. The vanilla orchid, from which the vanilla bean is derived, is a rare and delicate plant that requires special care and engineering to produce the coveted vanilla beans. In this blog post we invite you to join us on a journey into the world of vanilla production and discover the secret of the vanilla orchid.
Origin of vanilla: Vanilla originally comes from Mexico and was brought to Europe by the Spaniards in the 16th century. The vanilla orchid (Vanilla planifolia) is a tropical climber that has adapted to its natural pollinator, the Melipona bee. Today, vanilla is mainly grown in Madagascar, Réunion, the Comoros and Tahiti.
Growing the Vanilla Orchid: Growing vanilla requires a humid, tropical climate, patient care, and attention. The vanilla orchid needs support to climb, such as tree trunks or poles, and needs to grow in the shade to avoid direct sunlight. The plant takes about three years to mature and produce flowers.
Pollination of the Vanilla Orchid: Since the vanilla orchid's natural pollinators, the Melipona bees, are rare outside of Mexico, the flowers must be pollinated by hand. This time-consuming and precise process adds to the preciousness and value of vanilla. The flowers only open for one day and must be pollinated during this short time to ensure successful fertilization.
Harvesting and fermentation of the vanilla beans: The vanilla beans can be harvested about nine months after pollination. The pods are handpicked when they are still green and just beginning to turn yellow. They then undergo a meticulous fermentation process in which they are heated in the sun and stored in airtight containers at night. This procedure, which lasts several weeks, gives the pods their characteristic dark brown color and intense aroma.
The processing of
Vanilla Beans: After fermentation, the vanilla beans are slowly and gently dried to preserve their flavors and essential oils. This drying process can take several weeks and requires careful monitoring of humidity and temperature. Once the pods are fully dried, they are sorted by size and quality and packed before being shipped to retailers and consumers around the world.
Vanilla Extract: To make vanilla extract, the dried vanilla beans are steeped in alcohol, which extracts the flavors and essential oils from the beans. The alcohol content and extraction time can affect the quality and intensity of the vanilla extract. High-quality vanilla extract has a rich, complex aroma that is a distinctive element in many culinary creations and skin care products.
The Importance of Sustainable Vanilla Production: Given the high demand for vanilla and the intense manual work required to produce it, it is important to encourage sustainable vanilla production. Sustainable cultivation protects the environment, supports local communities and ensures the availability of high-quality vanilla for future generations.
Conclusion: Vanilla production is a complex and fascinating process that requires patience, expertise and care. The secret of the vanilla orchid lies in its delicate nature and the loving attention given to it by the people who cultivate it. By exploring the world of vanilla production and supporting its sustainable practice, we can help preserve this precious spice for future generations while enjoying its numerous kitchen, skincare and well-being benefits.