The worlds most valuable bean, another side of the story of vanilla beans


Beyond buying vanilla beans

As I sit here staring at a beautifully cured buttery and fragrant vanilla bean I cannot help but wonder as I breathe in and inhale the sweet and alluring aroma of vanilla, wherever could vanilla beans come from, how did you get here and how did they come to be so loved.  In this blog post I will attempt to address the mystery  and birth of the world famous vanilla bean.

The story of Vanilla unfolds in Mexico where it  all began as the birth place vanilla. It was here in South America where the Vanilla orchid and a tiny bee known as the Melipona bee were discovered. The Melipona bee only native to this area of South America, is the only  known natural pollinator to the vanilla orchid plant.  It was not until  1841, a slave by the name of Edmond Albius, at age 12, on the French Island of Reunion in the Indian ocean discovered how to hand pollinate the vanilla orchid. Thus opening up a new chapter in the global spice trade and allowing for a valuable commodity to begin its world wide obsession and the rise of Madagascar Vanilla beans.

The green vanilla beans in the picture above are vanilla planifolia.  This is the most widely produced vanilla in the world Madagascar being the top producer, but other countries producing equal or better quality vanilla beans. The vanilla beans we decided to share are our Ugandan Bourbon Vanilla beans.  We had the pleasure of watching these  vanilla beans develop all the way to maturity and then along the process of beingkilled , cured and nurtured into grade A gourmet vanilla.  We are so thankful for the farmers, the curers and the communities involved in vanilla production and the opportunities it provides in some of the most remote places in the world for these communities.  It is something we are grateful to be a part of playing our small role.

At Slofoodgroup we enjoy many beans but what we enjoy most is the unique story behind these beans and lives they touch that are unbeknownst and unheard of by the rest of the world. The story of the vanilla beans  is much deeper and complex, not so plain or vanilla as the term is used now commonly referred to for being boring.  Vanilla beans are rightfully so the world most second valuable spice rival to that only of saffron.

One blog is simply not enough to capture the true essence of Vanilla and it world wide presence.  Good thing we will be back with additional entries about all of our great products and to further explore the world of vanilla and spices.


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