Sunday, July 3, 2022

Harvesting vanilla

Vanilla is grown within 10-20 degrees of the equator. Most of the world's vanilla production is concentrated in a handful of Indian Ocean Island nations, mainly Madagascar and Indonesia.

Vanilla pods, also called beans (though not beans at all), are ready nine months after pollination. They are ready to harvest when the tip starts turning yellow. If the vanilla is harvested too early, the vanillin levels will not be high enough. On the other hand, if a vanilla bean is left on the pod until it is fully ripe, it will split.

Beans are carefully cut from the stem using a sharp knife. At this phase they are green and odorless.

The newly picked beans are sorted and graded according to size, length and appearance. Larger beans with a nearly perfect appearance are Grade A beans. The smaller, thinner beans, some with split ends, are Grade B, or Extract Grade beans, used primarily for making vanilla extract.

The curing process is what gives the beans their characteristics brown color as well as their flavor and aroma. The outer vegetative skin of the bean is killed by soaking it in hot water to keep it from growing further. This not only kills the skin of the vanilla bean, but also kills other potential pathogens.
Harvesting vanilla

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