“I don’t mind being described as vanilla in certain ways.” – Cal Ripken, Jr.
I agree with Cal Ripken on not minding to be described as vanilla – now that I know that vanilla isn’t just ordinary. Believe it or not vanilla comes from an orchid!
5 things you didn’t know about Vanilla (or Vanille)
- Vanilla is originally from Mexico
- and was brought to Reunion Island in the 1800’s. Here at first they unsuccessfully tried to get production going. What they didn’t realise was that the orchid needed Melipona bees to pollinate them (as in Mexico). Then one day they realised that you have to pollinate each flower by hand… and voila!
- Each flower lasts 1 day and if it isn’t pollinated within 12 hours of blooming… no vanilla pods.
- The pods grow for 9 months… Once the green pods start turning yellow that’s when they are ready to harvest. They are first boiled and then dried in the sun for weeks (months).
- It can take 3 to 5 years for a vanilla plant to bloom and after harvest there is still months to go before you’ll find the vanilla on the shelves
ProVanille – Bras Panon
We went to ProVanille, a cooperative near Bras Panon on Reunion Island for an English tour. They buy their vanilla from farmers and do the curing, drying and sorting on the premises. However, they still have a few Vanilla plants for demonstration purposes.
We first enjoyed a cup of vanilla coffee before the tour. The tour cost 24 Euros for 4 adults.
They keep the plant low to the ground so they can reach the flowers and pods. These green pods are starting to go yellow so they would be harvested soon.
They dry the pods on wooden shelves in the sun, but as soon as the sun waves goodbye the vanilla is brought inside. See how rounded and puffy the pods are? This means they still contain a lot of moisture and still have some drying to do.
These vanilla pods are much dryer, but according to our tour guide they still had some drying to do!
This photo and video clip shows how they “class” the vanilla by length. You will pay a premium for longer pods.
Escale Bleue Vanille – Saint Phillippe
We also stopped by Escale Bleue Vanille to look at an award winning vanilla grower’s operation. It is pretty much the same everywhere, so if you visit one farm the next one is the same. We got in for free because their English tour guide was away… we aimlessly wandered about looking at everything, but it was still interesting.
On the left is the shop and on the right (yes, that is a garage) a workshop to harvest the vanilla, boil it etc.
See how they keep the plant low to the ground? This is so they can get to the flowers and pods easily.
If there is a tree, their is a vanilla plant creeping up. They cut the “tentacles” holding onto the tree to reign in the height.
If you want to know what you can do with vanilla – other than baking – keep on coming back to my blog.