There’s something about vanilla. A tiny spoon of extract makes a world of a difference when you are baking a chocolate cake. Sometimes even a heaped edge of a knife scraped off a bean takes your ice-cream or custard a few notches up. The ubiquitous vanilla seems to be one of the most popular flavouring agents, making its presence felt in almost every kitchen cabinet. But, what is vanilla? How is it cultivated? Can vanilla be farmed in India? Here’s what you wanted to know.
What is vanilla?
Vanilla is a climbing orchid of the genus vanilla, and grows like a vine around a support tree. It is native to southeast Mexico, and is said to have originated in the tropical rainforests. Vanilla pods contain a compound called vanillin, which gives vanilla its predominant flavour and aroma. It is most favoured for its pleasantly sweet, and yet nuanced fragrance obtained from its cured caviar-like beans. After saffron, it is considered to be one of the most expensive spices in the world. Today, its production is concentrated in the areas adjoining the Indian Ocean island nations, mainly Madagascar and Indonesia.
Vanilla in India
It is believed vanilla was introduced in India 200 years ago by the British. Today, it is widely cultivated in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka due to the favourable weather conditions. In the districts of Idukki, Wayanad and Ernakulam in Kerala, it remains to be one of the most important cash crops yielding better returns to the farmers of the region. A warm, humid climate with frequent showers is what gives Kerala vanilla an edge over others.
Did you know the flowers of the vanilla plant require artificial pollination? Farmers need to manually pollinate each and every bloom to be able to cultivate vanilla.
Experience it now!
Get a taste of real Indian Vanilla in Native Tongue's Strawberry Preserve with Kerala Vanilla.