Thứ Hai, 28 tháng 3, 2011

Another view on Vanilla orchid !

There 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 20,000 species.

Orchids 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 source.

Vanilla 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.

The 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.

Arranged 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.

Vanilla 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.

The 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 fragrance.

In 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 is farmed.

The 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.
Vanilla 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 one day.
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.

In 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.

Well 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.

Chủ Nhật, 27 tháng 3, 2011

The main species harvested for vanillin is Vanilla planifolia. Although it is native to Mexico, it is now widely grown throughout the tropics. Madagascar is the world's largest producer. Additional sources include Vanilla pompona and Vanilla tahitiensis (grown in Tahiti and Niue), although the vanillin content of these species is much less than Vanilla planifolia.

Vanilla grows as a vine, climbing up an existing tree (also called a tutor), pole, or other support. It can be grown in a wood (on trees), in a plantation (on trees or poles), or in a "shader", in increasing orders of productivity. Its growth environment is referred to as its terroir and includes not only the adjacent plants, but also the climate, geography and local geology. Left alone, it will grow as high as possible on the support, with few flowers. Every year, growers fold the higher parts of the plant downwards so that the plant stays at heights accessible by a standing human. This also greatly stimulates flowering.

The distinctively flavored compounds are found in the fruit, which results from thepollination of the flower. One flower produces one fruit. Vanilla planifolia flowers arehermaphroditic: they carry both male (anther) and female (stigma) organs; however, to avoid self-pollination, a membrane separates those organs. The flowers can only be naturally pollinated by a specific Melipone bee found in Mexico (abeja de monte ormountain bee). This bee provided Mexico with a 300 year long monopoly on Vanilla production, from the time it was first discovered by Europeans and the French first transplanted the vines to their overseas colonies, until a substitute was found for the bees. The vines would grow, but would not fruit outside of Mexico. Growers tried to bring this bee into other growing locales, to no avail. The only way to produce fruits without the bees is artificial pollination. And today, even in Mexico, hand pollination is used extensively.
In 1836, botanist Charles François Antoine Morren was drinking coffee on a patio in Papantla (in Veracruz, Mexico) and noticed black bees flying around the vanilla flowers next to his table. He watched their actions closely as they would land and work their way under a flap inside the flower, transferring pollen in the process. Within hours the flowers closed and several days later Morren noticed vanilla pods beginning to form. Morren immediately began experimenting with hand pollination. A few years later in 1841, a simple and efficient artificial hand pollination method was developed by a 12-year-old slave named Edmond Albius on Réunion, a method still used today. Using a beveled sliver of bamboo, an agricultural worker lifts the membrane separating the anther and the stigma, then, using the thumb, transfers the pollinia from the anther to the stigma. The flower, self-pollinated, will then produce a fruit. The vanilla flower lasts about one day, sometimes less, and so, growers have to inspect their plantations every day for open flowers, a labor-intensive task.

The fruit, a seed capsule, if left on the plant, will ripen and open at the end; as it dries, the phenolic compounds crystallize, giving the beans a diamond-dusted appearance which the French call givre (hoarfrost). It will then release the distinctive vanilla smell. The fruit contains tiny, flavorless seeds. In dishes prepared with whole natural vanilla, these seeds are recognizable as black specks.
Like other orchids' seeds, vanilla seed will not germinate without the presence of certain mycorrhizal fungi. Instead, growers reproduce the plant by cutting: they remove sections of the vine with six or more leaf nodes, a root opposite each leaf. The two lower leaves are removed, and this area is buried in loose soil at the base of a support. The remaining upper roots will cling to the support, and often grow down into the soil. Growth is rapid under good conditions.

Source : Wikipedia

History of vanilla, part 2

The first to cultivate vanilla were the Totonac people, who inhabit the Mazatlan Valley on the Gulf Coast of Mexico in the present-day state of Veracruz. According to Totonac mythology, the tropical orchid was born when Princess Xanat, forbidden by her father from marrying a mortal, fled to the forest with her lover. The lovers were captured and beheaded. Where their blood touched the ground, the vine of the tropical orchid grew. 

In the fifteenth century, Aztecs invading from the central highlands of Mexico conquered the Totonacs, and soon developed a taste for the vanilla bean. They named the bean"tlilxochitl", or "black flower", after the mature bean, which shrivels and turns black shortly after it is picked. Subjugated by the Aztecs, the Totonacs paid tribute by sending vanilla beans to the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan.

Until the mid-19th century, Mexico was the chief producer of vanilla. In 1819, however,French entrepreneurs shipped vanilla beans to the islands of Réunion and Mauritius in hopes of producing vanilla there. After Edmond Albius, a 12-year-old slave from Réunion Island, discovered how to pollinate the flowers quickly by hand, the pods began to thrive. Soon the tropical orchids were sent from Réunion Island to the Comoros Islands and Madagascar along with instructions for pollinating them. By 1898, Madagascar, Réunion, and the Comoros Islands produced 200 metric tons of vanilla beans, about 80% of world production. Madagascar is now responsible for 97% of the world's vanilla bean production.

The market price of vanilla rose dramatically in the late 1970s, after a tropical cyclone ravaged key croplands. Prices remained high through the early 1980s despite the introduction of Indonesian vanilla. In the mid-1980s, the cartel that had controlled vanilla prices and distribution since its creation in 1930 disbanded. Prices dropped 70% over the next few years, to nearly US$20 per kilogram, but would rise sharply again after tropical cyclone Hudah struck Madagascar in April 2000. The cyclone, political instability, and poor weather in the third year drove vanilla prices to an astonishing US$500 per kilogram in 2004, bringing new countries into the vanilla industry. A good crop, coupled with decreased demand caused by the production of imitation vanilla, has pushed the market price down to the $40 per kilo range in the middle of 2005.

Madagascar (mostly the fertile region of Sava) now accounts for much of the global production of vanilla. Mexico, once the leading producer of natural vanilla with an annual 500 tons, produced only 10 tons of vanilla in 2006. An estimated 95% of "vanilla" products actually contain artificial vanillin, produced fromlignin.

Thứ Tư, 23 tháng 3, 2011

The main scented profiles of the Bourbon vanilla of Madagascar

Mikka Vanilla features top quality Bourbon Vanilla beans (vanilla planifolia), imported from Madagascar, the most popular variety of vanilla beans commercially available in the world but also all other origins as Papua New Guinea, Uganda, India, Mexico, Indonesia, Comoros, Reunion, Tahiti, Kenya...

Each kind of Vanilla has a particular scent which make a difference between them and make them unique. You can find out this marvelous caracteristic of Vanilla in the map below.

A few tips of Mikka Vanilla for choosing a good quality Vanilla bean

The best quality vanilla beans regardless of where they are coming from are dark skinned, soft and pliable.

■     They should have a rich aroma. You have to avoid beans with very little scent and beans which are smoky, brittle, dry or mildewed.

■     Mexican beans are very similar to Bourbon beans though they have a more mellow, smooth, quality and a spicy, woody fragrance. Tahitian beans are usually shorter, plumper, and contain a higher oil and water content than Bourbon beans. The skin is thinner, they contain fewer seeds, and the aroma is fruity and floral. They are often described as smelling like liquorice, cherry, prunes, or wine.

■     Bourbon beans from Madagascar and the Comoros are described as being creamy, and sweet, with vanillin overtones. When selecting vanilla beans, choose plump beans with a thin skin to get the most seeds possible. To test, gently squeeze the bean between your fingers. Pods should be dark brown, almost black in colour, and pliable enough to wrap around your finger without breaking. If the beans harden, you can soften them by dropping into the liquid of your recipe until softened.

■     Bourbon beans may develop a frosting of natural vanillin crystals over time. This is called “givre” in French (which means light frost), and it indicates that the beans are high in natural vanillin and are very good quality. These crystals are quite edible and very flavourful. If you are uncertain whether the beans are covered with crystals or mildewed, take them into the sunlight. The crystals are similar to mineral crystals and will reflect the sun's rays, creating the colours of the rainbow. Mildew, on the contrary, will be dull and flat in the light, and may also not smell very nice. If the bean is mildewed, throw it away as the mildew will spread to uninfected beans.

■     Use the strongly aromatic beans whole or split them, to get more flavour from the thousands of tiny seeds inside the pods.

■     Vanilla beans will keep indefinitely in a cool, dark place in an airtight container. Don't refrigerate beans as this can cause them to harden and crystallize. In the humid tropics where beans are grown, they are wrapped in oiled or waxed paper and stored in tin boxes.

■     Vanilla beans are graded by the growers by their quality. Generally it is not possible to compare grades between two different vanilla types, for example between Taihitan vanilla and Bourbon vanilla. However within one type it is an important factor. The top grade is grade A, followed by B and so on.

■     Vanilla beans are also graded by their colour. The best quality are invariable classed as 'black' although they are actually very dark brown. They are then graded down to red/brown which is the lowest quality. Be careful when buying vanilla as many unscrupulous sellers sell vanilla which is dyed black to make them look like a better quality than they are. Sometimes the sellers don't even know this until its too late...! Check that none of the colour rubs off on your hand as this is an obvious sign of counterfeit goods.

Thứ Hai, 21 tháng 3, 2011

Production's stats

2006 Top Vanilla Producers

Vanilla's history, the beginning

Vanilla is a flavoring derived from orchids of the genus Vanilla native to Mexico. Etymologically, vanilla derives from the Spanishword "vainilla", little pod.

Originally cultivated by Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican peoples, Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortésis credited with introducing both vanilla and chocolate to Europe in the 1520s. Attempts to cultivate the vanilla plant outside Mexico and Central America proved futile because of the symbiotic relationship between the tlilxochitl vine that produced the vanilla orchid and the local species of Melipona bee; it was not until 1837 that Belgian botanist Charles François Antoine Morrendiscovered this fact and pioneered a method of artificially pollinating the plant. The method proved financially unworkable and was not deployed commercially. 

In 1841, a 12-year-old French-owned slave by the name of Edmond Albius, who lived on Île Bourbon, discovered the plant could be hand pollinated, allowing global cultivation of the plant.There are currently three major cultivars of vanilla grown globally, all derived from a species originally found in Mesoamerica, including parts of modern day Mexico. 
The various subspecies are Vanilla planifolia (syn. V. fragrans), grown on Madagascar,Réunion and other tropical areas along the Indian Ocean; V. tahitensis, grown in the South Pacific; and V. pompona, found in theWest Indies, Central and South America. The majority of the world's vanilla is the V. planifolia variety, more commonly known as "Madagascar-Bourbon" vanilla, which is produced in a small region of Madagascar and in Indonesia.

Vanilla is the second most expensive spice after saffron,[citation needed] due to the extensive labor required to grow the vanilla seed pods. Despite the expense, it is highly valued for its flavor, which author Frederic Rosengarten, Jr. described in The Book of Spices as "pure, spicy, and delicate" and its complex floral aroma depicted as a "peculiar bouquet." Despite its high cost, vanilla is widely used in both commercial and domestic baking, perfume manufacture and aromatherapy.

Source : Wikipedia