Did you know that most vanilla flavouring bears little or no relationship to the plant itself?
Vanilla pods grow on the vines of Vanilla Orchids, beautiful trailing plants with narrow green leaves that finish in a point. They are highly prized and difficult to come by. Due to recent natural disasters and the labour-intensive process of extraction, the price of vanilla has skyrocketed, reported to be worth its weight in silver.
Around 80% of the world's vanilla is grown in Madagscar, which has just the right climate pattern to meet the plant's specific demands. When the country was struck by extreme weather last year, it resulted in the demise of huge swathes of the precious crop. Farmers and growers across the globe are beginning to address the gap but progress is slow and it and will be some time before the the plant is widely available.
Of course, even in good weather, vanilla is an expensive product.
Whilst they aren't too tricky to grow as decorative plants, getting Vanilla Orchids to produce pods and extracting vanilla flavouring requires specialised attention. They need high temperatures (around 30°C) and lots of light in the day, but like the temperature to drop right down to 10°C at night. If you’re serious about getting your vine to flower, you should apply a diluted orchid fertiliser every two weeks.
Previously, these beauties only grew wild in Mexico, thanks to the Euglossine bee which had a snout long enough to pollinate Orchid flowers. It wasn’t until the 1800s that a manual method of pollination was developed.
Pollination and pod collection continue to be intricate tasks that need to be carried out by hand. The window in which pollination can occur is a matter of hours on a single day, while pods must be left to develop and dry over a period of several months.
Don’t be deterred though! Orchid cultivation can be a deeply rewarding hobby, and if you’re not up to the challenge of collecting vanilla, you’ll still have a rare foliage plant at home.
Bloombox Club has partnered with a grower who has allowed us to sell bulk of his Vanilla Orchids. Each one has been cultivated responsibly and sustainably.
Get yours here, limited number available.