are many species of vanilla thriving around the world; about
110 species have been catalogued since the discovery of
vanilla. The plant that produces the vanilla bean/pod is an
orchid. The family to which the species belongs is Orchidaceae,
one of the largest families of flowering plants in the world.
There are 700 genera in the family Orchidaceae and approximately
are best known for their beautiful flowers, which are economically
valuable to the horticultural industry. However, vanilla beans
is the only genus that has economic importance as a food
beans is a fleshy, herbaceous vine that is perennial and climbing.
It grows to a height of 10 to 15 metres, supporting itself
on the host plant with aerial roots. Roots are produced
all along the stem, opposite to leaves. Under cultivation
conditions, vanilla is trained and pruned to a height that
will allow hand pollination of the flowers and subsequent
harvest of the beans.
stem is cylindrical in shape and monopodial in growth pattern,
with means the central stem produces secondary branches
that always remain subsidiary to the main stem. Leaves are
flat and fleshy and have a short stem. They are bright green
and vary between elliptical and lanceolate in shape, with
an acute, rounded tip.
along the stem in an alternate pattern, vanilla leaves vary
a great deal in length and width; between eight and 25cm
in length and two and eight centimetres in width. In the
forest it grows from the floor into the treetops leaves
are larger and healthier, the more sunlight they receive.
flowers are fragrant, waxy and large. They are pale green-
yellow in colour with a short broad labellum and the upper
petals are slightly smaller than the sepals. Flowers are
held on long, thick rachis in groups of 20-30. Each inflorescence
measures approximately eight centimetres and usually displays
three or four open flowers at a time. If flowers remain
un-pollinated, they last only a day.
fruit is a capsule, but in the trade of vanilla it is referred
to as a bean or pod. On the plant,
before harvesting, the bean is pendulous, and cylindrical
but three-angled in shape. It reaches 10-25cm in length
and about 1.5cm in diameter, at harvest size. After the
beans are harvested and cured they develop their aromatic
Mexico and Central America bees and hummingbirds pollinate
Vanilla flowers, but self-pollination is impossible in other
parts of the tropical world. Due to the structure and position
of the stamen and the stigma and a lack of natural pollinators,
hand pollination is necessary in most places where vanilla
most effect method used, to hand pollinate vanilla flowers
was discovered in 1841 and is still in use today. Individual
flowers are pollinated in the early morning, directly after
opening. A small stick of bamboo about the size of a toothpick
is used to pollinate. The rostellum is pushed aside and
pollen is spread from stamen to stigma by causing contact
between the two.
flowers once a year over a period of about two months. Flowers
open from the base of the raceme upward, with only two or
three flowers open at once. Commonly, flowers open in the
early morning and remain receptive to pollination for eight
hours. If fertilization has been successful, the flowers
remain on the rachis for two or three days. If fertilization
has not occurred, the flowers will wither and die after
From the state of the flowers, cultivators can judge the
number of fruits that have set and control the number of
beans to a plant.
the wild as a native plant, all vanilla species grow by
climbing on trees in wet tropical jungles from sea level
to about 600m. Vanilla thrives in a humid, hot climate with
consistent rainfall. The best average temperature for vanilla
production is 28 degrees Celsius, but it will tolerate a
range between 21C and 30 C. Average rainfall required is
about 2000mm (80 in) spread over ten months, with two months
of dry weather for flowering.
drained soil, with a deep layer of humus is ideal for vanilla
growing and under cultivation, vanilla is usually grown
on shrubs or small trees which provide the partial shade
needed for these orchid vines to flourish.
Our Vanilla Beans are tested by Australian
Inspection Service (AQIS) and meet all requirements of the
AUSTRALIAN FOOD STANDARDS CODE and the
USA FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION (FDA)
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