Vanilla- Vanilla Planifolia
Vanilla - Vanilla Planifolia
Vanilla, the vanilla orchids, form a flowering plant genus of about 110 species in the orchid family (Orchidaceae). The most widely known member is the Flat-leaved Vanilla (V. planifolia), from which commercial vanilla flavoring is derived. It is the only orchid widely used for industrial purposes (in the food industry and in the cosmetic industry). Another species often grown commercially but not on an industrial scale is the Pompona Vanilla (V. pompona).
This evergreen genus occurs worldwide in tropical and subtropical regions, from tropical America to tropical Asia, New Guinea and West Africa. It was known to the Aztecs for its flavoring qualities. The genus was established in 1754 by Plumier, based on J. Miller. The name came from the Spanish word "vainilla", diminutive form of "vaina" (meaning "sheath"), which is in turn derived from Latin "vagina".
The Vanilla Fragran also known as Vanilla Planifolia, is a variety of vine endemic to Mexico. Vanilla is best grown as an indoor plant. The famous navigator Hernan Cortes was the first to discover and bring back the vanilla plant to Europe. Prior to his discovery, the Aztecs used vanilla to flavor a chocolate drink. It is documented that the plant was given by Emperor Montezuma to the Spanish Conquistadors in 1518 and brought to
Vanilla was cultivated for its long seedpods by the Totonac tribe of Mexico before the Aztecs rose to
power. It is said that "the Tontonacas still grow Vanilla vines with almost religious devotion because to them it was the gift of the
gods... Vanilla is a pleasant, aromatic aphrodisiac. Old Totonac lore has it that
Xanat, the young daughter of the Mexican fertility goddess, loved a Totonac
youth. Unable to marry him due to her divine nature, she transformed herself into a plant that would provide pleasure and
happiness. She became the vanilla orchid so that she could forever belong to her human love and his
people. The local people still celebrate the Vanilla Festival at the end of the harvest with dances and
As it was introduced to European royalty it started to make its way into the kitchens of Europe and especially into the flavoring of the cocao otherwise known as
choclate. It was the French who started to cultivate this bean in a major way in the Indian Ocean
area, especially, Madagascar. Vanilla was cultivated in Africa for the first time in the middle of the 19th century by Edmond Albius. Albius was a slave who lived on the French island Reunion, near Madagascar. Albius was the first to manually pollinate the vanilla flower. The flower develops into a "bean" which is used as a spice. The "Bourbon", from Reunion Island, is well known as the most intensive and balanced variety of vanilla in the world. Madagascar was the first producer of
This genus of vine-like plants has a monopodial climbing habitus. They can form long thin stems with a length of more than 35 m, with alternate leaves spread along their length. The short, oblong, dark green leaves of Vanilla are thick and leathery, even fleshy in some species. But there are also a significant number of species that have their leaves reduced to scales or have become nearly or totally leafless and appear to use their green climbing stems for photosynthesis. Long and strong aerial roots grow from each node.
The racemose inflorescences short-lived flowers arise successively on short peduncles from the leaf axils or scales. There may be up to 100 flowers on a single raceme, but usually no more than 20. The flowers are quite large and attractive with white, green, greenish yellow or cream colors. The flowers' sepals and petals are similar. The lip is tubular-shaped and surrounds the long, bristly column, opening up, as the bell of a trumpet, at its apex. The anther is at the top of the column and hangs over the stigma, separated by the rostellum. Most Vanilla flowers have a sweet scent.
Blooming occurs only when the flowers are fully grown. Each flower opens up in the morning and closes late in the afternoon on the same day, never to re-open. If pollination has not occurred meanwhile, it will be shed. The flowers are self-fertile but need pollinators to perform this task. The flowers are presumed to be pollinated by stingless bees (e.g. Melipona) and certain hummingbirds, which visit the flowers primarily for nectar. But hand pollination is the most reliable method in commercially grown
In the wild, there is less than 1% chance that the flowers will be pollinated, so in order to receive a steady flow of fruit, the flowers must be hand-pollinated when grown on farms. Hand pollinators can pollinate about 1,000 flowers per
Vanilla species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species, such as the wooly bear moths Hypercompe eridanus and H. icasia. Vanilla plantations require some sort of tree planting for the orchids to climb up on; off-season or when abandoned, they may serve as habitat for animals of open forest, e.g. on the Comoros for Robert Mertens' Day Gecko (Phelsuma robertmertensi).
Fruit is produced only on mature plants, which are generally over 3 m (10 ft) long.
The fruit is termed "vanilla bean", though true beans are fabaceaen eudicots not at all closely related to orchids. Rather, the vanilla fruit is technically an elongate, fleshy and later dehiscent capsule 10-20 cm long. It ripens gradually for
5 to 9 months after flowering, eventually turning black in color and giving off a strong
Át which point they are harvested and cured. Curing ferments and dries the pods while minimizing the loss of essential oils. Vanilla extract is obtained from this portion of the
Each pod contains thousands of minute seeds, but it is the pod that is used to create vanilla flavoring.
Vanilla is the only orchid that can produce edible fruits. The process of converting vanilla into a spice is very long and complicated; hence, vanilla is one of the most expensive spices in the world. There have been scientific advances using a tissue propagation to grow this orchid more easily and economically to produce more seed pods or "valilla beans" for commercial