Vanilla plant

Main features of the vanilla plant

The vanilla plant is native to Mexico but grows spontaneously throughout the territory of Central America. It is a climber belonging to the large family of orchids. It has the appearance of a supple green liana and has numerous adventitious roots. It is characterized by particularly elongated leaves and very showy flowers in pastel shades of green and yellow. He does not particularly like direct light and can also be grown in our latitudes in repaired greenhouses or gazebos, especially in the coldest areas. The most valuable part of this plant is its aromatic berries. The first harvest can be made three years after its planting and the maximum production occurs after the eighth year of life.

How to grow it

To best cultivate the vanilla plant, it must be placed in an illuminated area but not directly affected by the sun's rays, which are too hot for the plant. It lives well at a temperature between sixteen and twenty-five degrees and to protect it from dangerous temperature changes it is preferable to cultivate it in greenhouses or inside the four domestic walls. If the air is rather dry or at least below 60% humidity, it is necessary to vaporize water on its leaves at least twice a day. Fears drought and tends to dehydrate very quickly. This variety of orchid tends to grow a lot. Suffice it to say that an adult plant can reach four meters in length and needs sturdy stakes to which it can anchor.

How to collect vanilla

There vanilla plant begins to produce the berries several years after its sowing. The pods are considered mature when they start to turn yellow and lose their typical vitality. They must be detached one by one by cutting the stalk that connects them directly to the mother plant. Then they lay down on racks and let them dry in a shaded but well-ventilated area. The dried berries are kept in the dark inside a hermetically sealed glass jar. The commercially available pods are no less than fifteen centimeters long and can be easily folded without breaking. If whitish efflorescences appear on the black surface, the quality of the product is excellent and its aroma will be more pronounced.

Vanilla plant: How to use it in the kitchen

The aroma that is released from the berries and vanilla seeds is used to make numerous confectionery-type preparations ranging from panna cotta to chocolate, from cakes to custard. The best quality vanilla is the one that is grown on the small island of Reunion, an island in the Mascarene archipelago that is located in the Indian Ocean better known as Bourbon. It is a variety with unique qualities and offers a delicate but persistent aroma that does not change even after cooking. The Tahitian vanilla, on the other hand, has a sweeter, slightly fruity fragrance. Vanilla has antiseptic properties and is a powerful aphrodisiac. A few years ago a study was conducted on vanilla growers which led to the recognition of the occupational disease called vanillism which consists of perennial sexual excitement.