The flavor of vanilla may be considered somewhat plain, but the story of vanilla is oh so exotic. Vanilla pods (or beans) grow from an exquisite orchid of the genus Vanilla. This orchid grows in tropical climates, such as Mexico and Central America, Tahiti, and the Caribbean. Some of the world’s most aromatic pods grow in Madagascar, which is the source for our organic vanilla extract.
Vanilla is the second most expensive spice after saffron. Producing those dark, aromatic pods is very labor intensive. During the spring, the blooming flowers in Madagascar are hand-pollinated within 12 hours of opening, a process called “marrying the vanilla”. A flower is typically only open for a day, so the farmer must be ever vigilant for new blossoms. After pollination, it takes the fruit five to six weeks to develop and six months more for the bean to mature. Each individual pod is harvested by hand just before it begins to split on the end. Then the pods are dried and conditioned, which means the pods are put out in the morning sun and then transferred to boxes in the afternoon. Once the pods have lost 60-70% of their moisture and curing is complete, they are sorted by quality and graded.
That sweet, woody, warm flavor and floral aroma, arrives to us after many months of tender care. It carries its own blend of nature, time, and the growers’ attention, bringing a touch more bliss to our lives.
We are very happy to source our vanilla from the family-owned Lochhead Manufacturing Co. They work very closely with vanilla growers in Madagascar. Recently, Lochhead started a project building water wells in the communities where our vanilla beans are grown and conditioned. This video shows the valuable work they are doing there.