Vanilla or Vanilla planofolia is a member of the Orchid family. It grows as a climber vine, which can grow up to a length of about 250-300 ft. Its greenish-yellow flower sprouts only for 24 hours within which it has to undergo the pollination process. It is stretched from Central America to Southern America, Madagascar Islands, and Indonesia. It is the only type of orchid which is used as a spice and is the second most expensive spice after saffron. The word vanilla comes from the Spanish name - 'vanilla (meaning- little pod).
Where does Vanilla comes from?
It was first cultivated by the Totonacs of Mexico, they are considered to be the first to use vanilla as an ingredient, called Tlilxochitl.
For hundreds of years the Totonacs, the Aztecs, and the Mayans were trading and enjoying vanilla among themselves until the Spanish arrived. In the 15th century, Aztec was conquered by the Spanish and the vintage ingredient was taken to Spain, where it got new recognition. Though there it was solely obtained as a tasty drink for the rich and the novelties.
Over a while, vanilla found its role in chocolate, tobacco, perfumes, and various other medicinal purposes.
With the increasing demand, Europeans increased their access to vanilla through a mutually reinforced combination of science, conquest, and forced labor. It was a young slave working in the colony of Reunion, a 12 years old Edmond Albius who realized that the vanilla plant can be pollinated but only hand. Well around the same time scientists named Chaled Morren discovered a solitary species of bee native to Mexico, that pollinated the Mexican vanilla plant in a similar way to Edmond's method. This pollination technique is still used today in a process that is labor-intensive. It precipitated a massive rise in the vanilla yield almost immediately, which allowed the chefs around Europe to start experimenting with the new uses of vanilla.
Blog By - Madhu Ray