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Old Jan 14, 2012, 6:22 AM   #1
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These are archival shots of the true vanilla orchid from which vanilla flavoring is derived.
It is one of only a few "New World" spices and was first introduced to the Old World by the native americans of Central America.
Another bit of trivia it is the only fruit from an orchid that is eaten - in a fashion. Orchids are generally noted only for the beauty of their flowers.


The beans are formed after the flowers have been successfully pollinated.


Several years ago these were grown in my yard and my son and wife figured out how to pollinate the flowers by hand in the few hours or so that make them viable for the formation of the vanilla beans. They even cured them and we ended up with a few handmade "vanilla beans."
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Old Jan 14, 2012, 10:29 AM   #2
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Most interesting, Selvin.
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Old Jan 14, 2012, 11:52 AM   #3
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That is a very interesting story selvin! "Pollinate by hand", I guess that's why whole vanilla beans are expensive.
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Old Jan 14, 2012, 12:11 PM   #4
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Superb shot and the story.Who must have pollinated them in the wild before we humans "discovered" the vanilla?
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Old Jan 14, 2012, 1:02 PM   #5
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Cool! I didn't realize that vanilla was an orchid...
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Old Jan 14, 2012, 9:13 PM   #6
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Very interesting! I never particularly thought about where vanilla comes from, would never have guessed it was from an orchid. Love the pictures, too.
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Old Jan 14, 2012, 10:19 PM   #7
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Wannaclick, saly, Walter C, Jeannie Bug, and Mtngal,
Thanks for your comments.
In Mexico where vanilla was first introduced to the "Conquistadores" the flower was naturally pollinated by native insects and supposedly hummingbirds, the colonial powers tried transplating the vanilla to their colonies but found that the beans were not being produced in sufficient quantities. A slave in French colony of Reunion figured out the most successful procedure for hand pollination and that the procedure is still used to day.
Yes, that in part why they are so expensive. Also, the beans undergo a fairly lengthy fermentation and sweating process to develop the vanillin crystals we now know as "vanilla".
The other popular New World spice is "Allspice" or as it is somethimes known in the Carribean, "pimento."
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Old Jan 15, 2012, 6:14 AM   #8
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Thank you very much selvin for the interesting additional info. and an answer to my query-trying to figure out how they did it before "hand Pollination" was done.
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