One of the plants that have definitely changed humanity is aromatic vanilla orchids. We all know its sweet and spicy taste.
is vanilla an orchid?
Yes, Vanilla is the only orchid grown for practical use in the kitchen and the second most expensive spice in the world after saffron. Planifolia vanilla or vanilla flat belongs to the orchid (orchid) family. It grows in the rainforests of Mexico and Central America. Its twisting shoots up to 15 meters long are based on larger and stronger trees or special wooden structures.
Vanilla seedlings can grow up to 4 m. The plant has medium-sized smooth leaves and, like a cultivated crocus, blooms only for a day.
The size of the flowers is from 7 to 10 cm. Soon after collection, they acquire a dark, close to black color, hence their Aztec name “tlilxocht”, which means “black flower”. The most important, however, are the fruits of this plant, known as vanilla sticks.
When fully ripe, they are odorless and dark green in color. Only the proper processing of the pods, which consists in alternating drying and “perspiration”, gives them this extraordinary aroma. This process takes about six months. After processing is complete, the pods turn black and the scales are white, forming a vanilla bloom.
The more of this substance in the pods, the stronger the smell.
why is vanilla so expensive?
The secret is in its painstaking cultivation. When the Spanish conquistadors brought Vanilla plantifolia plants to Mauritius and from there to Indonesia, Tahiti, and Madagascar around 1800, they faced a problem.
Namely, in the natural territories of South America, vanilla pods are formed after pollination of the flower by bees and hummingbirds, while in the new place, the pale green flowers of orchids did not have natural pollinators.
It became necessary to pollinate each plant by hand. Usually, women are involved in this work. With a sharp shoot of a bamboo or lemon tree, they pierce the membrane covering the male and female reproductive organs of the flower so that they can touch each other.
Read out guide How To Buy Orchids?
However, not all flowers are efficiently pollinated and bear fruit. About 300 kg of pods are obtained from 1 hectare of crops, which remain on the plants until they reach maturity, that is, about 6-9 months. Before being harvested, they go through the previously mentioned process of alternating drying and sweating.
what orchid does vanilla come from?
Vanilla comes from Vanilla planifolia orchid beans. Vanilla is widely used in the kitchen as an addition to cakes, creams, or desserts, vanilla is prized for its beneficial properties.
The scent of vanilla beans eliminates hunger, reduces stress, and helps you fall asleep. The consumption of vanilla has a diastolic and anti-inflammatory effect, and also supports the functioning of the stomach. Vanilla is classified as an antioxidant and therefore has anti-cancer and anti-aging properties.
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