Saturday, February 21, 2009


Reading: Vanilla by Tim Ecott; Travels in search of the Luscious Substance.

Most people love Vanilla. Already the word Vanilla evokes an expectation of something beautifully scented and rare. It is used in all sorts of sweets and the taste is sublime when the real Vanilla bean is used. Artificial Vanilla is awful it is to strong and leaves a bad aftertaste. Most manufactured sweets are flavoured with artificial Vanilla. Use in your own kitchen the real Vanilla only. Never ever use artificial Vanilla essence.

Vanilla is also used in perfumes.

I have planted Vanilla Orchids. I also have made cuttings which have taken.
Unfortunately I have not been diligent enough to look after them. When we had a very dry year I lost them all. I try again to find some plants and go from there.

Vanilla is a flavoring derived from orchids of the genus Vanilla native to Mexico. Etymologically, vanilla derives from the Spanish word "vainilla", little pod. [1]Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés is credited with introducing both the spice and chocolate to Europe in the 1520s.[2]

Attempts to cultivate the vanilla plant outside Mexico and Central America proved futile because of the symbiotic relationship between the tlilxochitl vine that produced the vanilla orchid and the local species of Melipona bee;

In 1841, a 12-year-old French-owned slave by the name of Edmond Albius, who lived on Île Bourbon, discovered the plant could be hand pollinated, allowing global cultivation of the plant.[4]
There are currently three major cultivars of vanilla grown globally.The majority of the world's vanilla that is produced is the V. planifolia variety, more commonly known as "Madagascar-Bourbon" vanilla, which is produced in a small region of the East African nation of Madagascar and in Indonesia.[7][8]
Vanilla is the second most expensive spice after saffron, due the extensive labor required to grow the seed pods used in its manufacture. Despite the expense, it is highly valued for its flavor which author Frederic Rosengarten, Jr. described in The Book of Spices as "pure, spicy, and delicate" and its complex floral aroma depicted as a "peculiar bouquet."[9] Regardless of its high cost, vanilla is widely used in both commercial and domestic baking, perfume manufacture and aroma therapy.[9]

The first to cultivate vanilla were the
Totonac people, who inhabit the Mazantla Valley on the Gulf Coast of Mexico in the present-day state of Veracruz. According to Totonac mythology, the tropical orchid was born when Princess Xanat, forbidden by her father from marrying a mortal, fled to the forest with her lover. The lovers were captured and beheaded. Where their blood touched the ground, the vine of the tropical orchid grew.[3]

Madagascar (mostly the fertile region of Sava) accounts for half of the global production of vanilla. Mexico, once the leading producer of natural vanilla with an annual 500 tons, produced only 10 tons of vanilla in 2006. An estimated 95% of “vanilla” products actually contain artificial vanillin, produced from lignin.[12]

Lignin or lignen is a complex chemical compound most commonly derived from wood, and an integral part of the secondary cell walls of plants[1] and some algae/[2] The term was introduced in 1819 by de Candolle and is derived from the Latin word lignum,[3] meaning wood. It is one of the most abundant organic polymers on Earth, exceeded only by cellulose, employing 30% of non-fossil organic carbon[4] and constituting from a quarter to a third of the dry mass of wood. As a biopolymer, lignin is unusual because of its heterogeneity and lack of a defined primary structure. Its most commonly noted function is the support through strengthening of wood (xylem cells) in trees. [5] [6][7]

Vanilla (orchid)
The main species harvested for
vanillin is Vanilla planifolia. Vanilla grows as a vine, climbing up an existing tree (also called a tutor), pole, or other support. It can be grown in a wood (on trees), in a plantation (on trees or poles), or in a "shader", in increasing orders of productivity. Its growth environment is referred to as its terroir and includes not only the adjacent plants, but also the climate, geography and local geology. Left alone, it will grow as high as possible on the support, with few flowers. Every year, growers fold the higher parts of the plant downwards so that the plant stays at heights accessible by a standing human. This also greatly stimulates flowering.

Vanilla planifolia - flower.
The distinctively flavored compounds are found in the fruit, which results from the
pollination of the flower. One flower produces one fruit. Vanilla planifolia flowers are hermaphroditic: they carry both male (anther) and female (stigma) organs; however, to avoid self-pollination, a membrane separates those organs. The flowers can only be naturally pollinated by a specific Melipone bee found in Mexico (abeja de monte or mountain bee). This bee provided Mexico with a 300 year long monopoly on Vanilla production, from the time it was first discovered by Europeans and the French first transplanted the vines to their overseas colonies, until a substitute was found for the bees. The vines would grow, but would not fruit outside of Mexico. Growers tried to bring this bee into other growing locales, to no avail. The only way to produce fruits without the bees is artificial pollination. And today, even in Mexico, hand pollination is used extensively.

The fruit (a seed capsule), if left on the plant, will ripen and open at the end; as it dries, the phenolic compounds crystallize giving the beans a diamond-dusted appearance which the French call givre (hoarfrost). It will then release the distinctive vanilla smell. The fruit contains tiny, flavorless seeds. In dishes prepared with whole natural vanilla, these seeds are recognizable as black specks.
Like other orchids' seeds, vanilla seed will not germinate without the presence of certain
mycorrhizal fungi. Instead, growers reproduce the plant by cutting: they remove sections of the vine with six or more leaf nodes, a root opposite each leaf. The two lower leaves are removed, and this area is buried in loose soil at the base of a support. The remaining upper roots will cling to the support, and often grow down into the soil. Growth is rapid under good conditions.

Medicinal uses
In old medicinal literature, vanilla is described as an
aphrodisiac and a remedy for fevers. It has been shown that vanilla does increase levels of catecholamines (including epinephrine, more commonly known as adrenaline), and as such can also be considered mildly addictive.[32][33]
In an in-vitro test vanilla was able to block quorum sensing in bacteria. This is medically interesting because in many bacteria quorum sensing signals function as a switch for virulence. The microbes only become virulent when the signals indicate that they have the numbers to resist the host immune system response.[34]
The essential oils of vanilla and vanillin are sometimes used in aromatherapy
Do you like to find out more about Vanilla click here Wikipedia

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