Madagascar is the largest producer of vanilla in the world. The vanilla plant originated in Mexico. But the favorable climatic conditions and certain other factors make Africa and few Asian countries outstrip vanilla production.
The vanilla plant is a tropical climber belonging to an orchid family which grows 30 to 50 feet tall. The tropical climate is the most suitable for vanilla cultivation. The unripe vanilla bean is plucked from the plant and cured. The vanilla pod contains a lot of tiny seeds. They are used in the flavor extraction process along with the vanilla pod. Vanilla is the most expensive spice in the world next to saffron. Vanilla has a long history of usage dating back to the Aztec kingdom where they used to add vanilla in chocolates and beverages as a flavoring ingredient.
Vanilla cultivation is a labor-intensive process. It is one of the cash crops which are mass-produced in Madagascar just like coffee and cloves. Vanilla crops also need the most important component for pollination. It is the presence of Melipona bees. Vanilla flowers cannot self pollinate. The bee is able to find the pollen and can carry it to other flowers. But the only Bee variety that can pollinate vanilla flowers is on the verge of extinction.
1. The word Vanilla meaning “little pod” is the language origin of?
- A. Arabic
- B. Spanish
- C. Portuguese
- D. Italian
Today the vanilla flowers are pollinated only by hand. The Rostellum of every flower is kept in an open position with the use of a tiny wood or grass stem so that it facilitates the flower to self pollinate and grow into the vanilla bean. Also, a vanilla flower must be pollinated within 24 hours after blooming. These limitations and processes make vanilla cultivation an extensive process.
The intense cultivation process and labor involved in the production makes the spice cost high apart from its valuable aromatic qualities. In recent times vanilla has become exorbitant as the drought has hit the Island and made many farmers choose other crops like rice, corn and sweet potato over vanilla for cultivation. Today Vanilla is cultivated through hand pollination in Asian countries like India and Indonesia. But the flavor differs based on the type of soil and climatic conditions.