The Vanilla Orchid’s reputation precedes it. This tropical evergreen perennial vine of Mexico is exactly the “finest of the flavors” vanilla you’d see in your favorite baked goods! With a signature, aromatic, musky sweetness, its flavor is one of the most used and recognized spices for cooking, and its scent is widely beloved both in beauty products and home fragrances.
A family member of Orchidaceae, the Vanilla Orchid is a succulent, flat-leaf climber with the capability of growing up to 75 ft. in the wild, while commonly maturing at 10 ft. indoors in a container. Roots grow from leaf joints and attach to trees in the wild (or trellises in a greenhouse). Requiring some structural support, Vanilla Orchid grows best in part shade to full shade with a nice, warm climate above 60 degrees. It thrives in soft light and will do best with daily misting for moisture.
The Vanilla Orchid requires patience to reach maturity and is well worth the wait! After 4 or so years, it becomes capable of growing showy yellow-green flowers once a year. These blossoms only last a day and require hand-pollination, hence, time is of the essence to act! Once pollinated, the Vanilla Orchid pods take roughly 9 months to mature fully on the vine after they appear.
Grown mostly in Madagascar these days, the Mexican-native Vanilla Orchid was an enigma to grow anywhere but its native soil! Until 1836, no one realized that a small Melipone bee was the sole pollinator of the flowers, and they couldn’t figure out a reliable way to hand pollinate the plant until 1841, when Edmont Albius came up with a solution and paved the way for expansive Vanilla Orchid growth.
A true delicacy, there’s no joy more wholesome than patiently growing and curing your own classic kitchen staple.