What are vanilla orchids?

Hi all,
 
We’re pulling together our own knowledge, along with that of multiple other sources, to give you a run down of lots of different topics. The subject of this post, vanilla orchids, aren’t commonly known about, as many people may not know where vanilla comes from.
 
As you may have read in our ‘Vanilla – The History’ blog, vanilla is said to have been used often by the Aztecs in Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica (pre-15th century Mexico!) in their hot chocolates as a flavouring, sometimes even adding red pepper and honey to it (we have yet to try this). 
 
The actual name for the vanilla orchid (Orchidaceae) is Vanilla Planifolia. There are around 110 species of orchid, and essentially, the orchid is one that spans about 1cm in diameter, with its leaves growing up to 15cm long, often growing in regions such as North and Central America, Madagascar, and the Seychelles! “Vanilla orchids are monopodial in growth. They are climbing vines that branch out and have little foliage and roots at each node that attach themselves to trunks of trees or a stake. The vine can go up to 30 feet long”. (https://orchidrepublic.com/blogs/about-orchids/vanilla-orchids).
Vanilla is also the only edible type of orchid. Our vanilla comes from Madagascar – most of the world’s vanilla does nowadays, or from an island called Reunion (check out our history blog for more on this). 
 
The vanilla beans (also known as pods), are picked just before they become ripe, and laid out to dry for about two to six whole months. In this process, all of the pods are checked for quality, and graded accordingly (gourmet grade, premium grade etc), according to their specific qualities. After this, they are bundled up and vacuumed in wax paper, which helps to preserve the pods, and then exported in more wrapping. This is only a shortened version of the process, but you can already imagine the work that goes into it, and we’ll explain the whole process in a future blog post.
 
Vanilla bean orchids are best grown in humid and moist climates with bright shade, such as in native jungle habitats, like the regions that we listed above. Did you know that the vanilla flower is only around for 24 hours? If it is not pollinated in this time, it will die. This is why the hand-pollination process in so valuable.
 
Is there anything else that you’d love to know about vanilla or the vanilla orchid? Let us know! We hope that this short blog post has provided you with lots of new information!
8 months ago
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