Vanilla is the only orchid that bears fruit. The first to cultivate vanilla were the Totonac people, who inhabit the Mazantla Valley on the Gulf Coast of Mexico in the present-day state of Veracruz. it is now grown in many other parts of the globe.
There are more than 100 species of vanilla but only 3 are edible: Vanilla planifolia (Madagascar-Bourbon vanilla) is by far the most important commercial species, Vanilla tahitensis grown in the South Pacific (Tahiti and Papua New Guinea mainly) and Vanilla pompona in the West Indies, Central and South America.
Vanilla is the second most expensive spice in the world, next to saffron. Why? Because extensive labour is required to grow and cure the vanilla seed pods. The plants must be hand-pollinated on the morning that they bloom. The pods must remain on the vine for nine months to mature. Upon harvesting the beans go through a lengthy curing process in which they develop their signature flavour and aroma.
The vanilla beans offer by Nielsen-Massey Vanillas are 2 prime gourmet quality vanilla beans. Madagascar Bourbon vanilla does not have anything to do with the American whiskey of the same name, but is named instead for Bourbon Island off the coast of Africa, now renamed La Réunion. Madagascar supplies more than 40 % of the world’s vanilla.
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