Vanilla has its origin in Mexico and was discovered and cultivated by the Aztec.In the Year 1822 brought the French the Vanilla plant to the Island Bourbon today called Reunion and started cultivation thereof.
Vanilla beans and its botanical Origins
Vanilla, vanilla pods from Madagascar (Bourbon) or Papua New Guinea (Tahitensis), vanilla powder ( bourbon ), and vanilla extract. Buy Vanillaproducts here in our Online Spice Store.
Vanilla, the queen of spices
Vanilla is the queen of spices; it is the second most expensive spice globally, with a price as high as silver. Due to its seductive scent and aroma, it is a sought-after luxury product in haute cuisine. The alluring scent of real Vanilla is incomparable. It is sweet and heavy at the same time. It has a strong character and is therefore difficult to combine with other spices. It is the ideal seasoning for desserts. Buy vanilla online here.
What is Vanilla?
Vanilla is a fermented capsule of the orchid plant of the genus Vanilla from a botanical point of view. It only arises in Mesoamerica, where the native Melipona bees or hummingbirds pollinate it naturally.
The Orchidaceae (orchid family) are climbing plants with fleshy leaves and a natural height of up to 15 meters. In commercial cultivation, they climb up on trees or poles, and they keep them to a height of 2.5 meters. The plant needs a warm, humid climate all year round and, in any case, temperatures above 20 ° C. The orchid does not survive a long dry season.
You can make a general distinction between three varieties whose botanical names are: Vanilla Planifolia / Tahitensis / Pomona.
Where does Vanilla come from?
Vanilla has its origin in Mesoamerica and has been known there since pre-Columbian times. Here it grows naturally, as only here are the Melipona bees that pollinate the plant.
Who brought them to Europe?
The Spaniards brought them to Europe from their spice voyages at the end of the 16th century. They established themselves here as a flavoring for drinking chocolate and later also for flavoring tobacco.
How did it spread?
In the 19th century, the Dutch and French managed to plant the vanilla plant in their colonies. Since there was no natural fertilization here, due to the Melipona bee's lack, they had to think of something about how to fertilize the flowers to produce the precious pods. In 1840 it was finally possible to carry out artificial fertilization of the flowers on the island of Réunion, also called Bourbon island. Since then, the first pods have appeared outside of Mexico, and the Bourbon vanilla pod was born.
What variants are there?
Today the queen of spices grows worldwide in warm, humid, subtropical climates such as Mexico, Tahiti, Madagascar, Comoros, India, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea.
You can mainly get Bourbon vanilla pods, Mexican V, Tahiti V, or simply Vanilla in different pod lengths in the trade.
Origin and Quality
There are considerable differences in the quality of vanilla pods, which depend on their country of origin.
The bourbon vanilla pods are very popular in Europe because of their intense, sweet, cocoa-like aroma. This variety of Vanilla Planifolia comes from Madagascar or the island of Réunion and bears the additional name Bourbon. All other pods of the genus V. Planifolia from different countries may not carry the name Bourbon.
In America, they prefer Mexican Vanilla, which is sweeter and softer in flavor.
The Tahitian Vanilla (Vanilla-Tahitensis) seems to be a cross between the vanilla-aromatica and vanilla-fragrans and is now a different variety. It has an unusual floral, round scent of anise, musk, and an aroma of wild plums and is therefore trendy in star gastronomy. It also has more seeds than other pods. It is much broader and plumper, and therefore more productive.
How are vanilla pods made?
The production of vanilla pods is very labor-intensive, and, except in Mexico, the flowers are even pollinated by hand. However, before the orchid bears flowers, three years pass.
An orchid flower only blooms for a few hours, then they die. Pollination must take place during this time. To do this, the workers carefully open the flowers with a bamboo tool. Then they carefully press the stigma and stamens of each flower onto one another without crushing them.
The capsule fruits formed reach their size within a month, but they have to mature on the plant between 4-9 months. A pod is ready to be harvested when its tip turns from green to yellow.
At harvest time, however, the vanilla pods are odorless and tasteless. Only after the lengthy processing process that has now started does it develop its seductive perfume.
The processing of the vanilla after the harvest
After the harvest, the processing of the Vanilla, the still green vanilla pods are given a water bath at 70 ° C for 2-3 minutes. Then, wrapped in blankets, they are placed in a wooden box for 2-3 days, and the fermentation process begins. The pods turn brown, and the flavoring vanillin begins to billow.
In the next step, for five weeks, the pods are left to dry in the sun for 2-3 hours a day. Then you put them back wrapped in towels to sweat. Due to the high loss of moisture in this process, the original 4-6 kg of green vanilla pods are only converted into 1 kg of Bourbon vanilla pods for retail.
A vanilla vine can develop up to 1000 flowers a year. However, you should only fertilize 50-100 of them to produce vanilla stalks; if you fertilize more flowers, you risk diseases or even the plant's loss. Besides, a vine has a productive life expectancy of 12-14 years.
Please store vanilla pods in cool, dark, and airtight packaging. If your pods dry out over time, you can briefly put them in a warm water bath. This makes them soft again and easy to work. Or you can grind them and then use the powder.
Another method would be to put the sticks in a narrow glass and fill them with a sugar solution. To do this, boil 1: 1 water with sugar so that the sugar dissolves and let it cool down a little before filling the glass with the vanilla pods. This means that you always have soft vanilla pods and, after a few days, a sugary vanilla solution to flavor drinks or fruit salads.