Friday, August 17, 2007

Vanilla Orchids - Vanilla planifolia

Vanilla orchids... now cultivated in Madagascar, Tahiti and Indonesia. New plantations... also... in the Caribbean and Africa.
... The vine grows in the shade of a host tree, like citrus or cacao...It... takes nine months for the blossoms to mature into the... green beans. After the beans are harvested, they go through a... curing process that canalso take up to nine months. The quality of the vanilla bean depends moston how well it has been cured...
Vanilla extract is made by immersing vanilla beans in alcohol. Vanillapaste and vanilla powder, long used in Europe, are now being introduced toAmerican...
The labor involved in bringing the completed vanilla bean to the tablemakes it the second-most expensive spice in the world [first is saffron]"
URL :,pp-vanilla-081607-s2.article


"Vanilla planifolia
... Tropical Americas, not native to Florida but occasionally found in the
southernmost part of the state.
leaves... oblong to lanceolate to 8 inches long, on short petioles or leaf
The vine branch or stem is stout, green and clings to host.
The roots are thick and covered with velamen... clings to the host without
damaging it... absorbing water.
Flowers... yellowish to greenish... sepals and petals to 2 1/2 inches long,
the lip three-lobed.
... flowers appear in groups or individually when the vine is mature...
Pollination in the wild is by bees and hummingbirds [! ?], but by hand for
commercial production.
The fruit... an orchid seed pod... harvested for culinary use while still
green... undergoes an extensive process of curing to develop the... vanilla.

Hardiness: USDA Hardiness Zones 10-11, damaged by temperatures below 50

Height/width: Vine is sparse in leaf and flower and can grow to 100 feet
long in the wild. Size is controlled for commercial and hobbyist purposes.

Light: Part, shifting shade, such as found under a tree canopy.

... Vanilla orchids are epiphytes...

Notes and culture: ... The Mexican Totonaca [Totonac / Totonacos] Indians
reportedly were the first to grow the... pod. The Totonaca[o]s... conquered
by the Aztecs... combined... spice with cacao and honey for a beverage...
Cortez is reported to have taken vanilla with him on his return to Spain.
It is said that Thomas Jefferson brought vanilla to the United States.
Today, most of the commercial production of vanilla is in Mexico and
there are new vanilla plantations under development in Hawaii.

Vanilla orchids are easy to grow.
They require warm temperatures, high humidity and some shade, such as found
under a tree or in a shadehouse.
... orchid mix, fertilize lightly and frequently, and water if rain is in
short supply.
vanilla will produce flowers in the home garden, but the plants must be
mature, from 1 to 3 years old.
Flowers must be hand pollinated during the one day they are open.
Once pollinated, the pods will remain on the plants for up to nine months
before mature.
After harvesting the green pod, at least three months of curing is
necessary to produce the... flavor and aroma associated with vanilla."


illustration :

Vanilla and Viruses

If you test ten (10) Vanilla orchids for a viruses most likely all ten will carry a virus. A great many Vanilla orchids carry viruses. Why? Because most all Vanilla orchid plants are grown from cuttings, similar to reed stem Epidendrums. So if you want to grow a virus free Vanilla orchid, you will need to start one from seed.

Hope this helps.


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