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How Long Does Vanilla Take To Grow in Uganda

Slofoodgroup Team December 07, 2022

Vanilla orchids in Uganda, much like those cultivated in other regions, take about three years to reach maturity and once they are pollinated, it is typically somewhere around eight or nine months before the vanilla beans are ready to harvest. That said, Uganda is at a unique position when it comes to the cultivation and exportation of vanilla beans. 

What Makes Ugandan Vanilla Cultivation Different?

Ugandan vanilla farmers might have an advantage over other growing regions around the globe when it comes to growing this particular crop. It is no secret that orchids—vanilla orchids in particular—only thrive in tropical conditions (including when imitated in a greenhouse), but Uganda offers something unique that most other tropical locations do not. 

Uganda Has Two Distinct Dry Seasons Each Year

Most of the locations vanilla is grown have a single dry season per year and the vanilla orchid requires such conditions in order to flower. For this reason, vanilla beans grown in most regions around the world are harvested just once a year. 

That doesn’t mean vanilla bean farmers aren’t busy year-round. From monitoring humidity levels and hand-pollinating to harvesting and processing, most work long days for the entire lap around the sun. Ugandan farmers get to mix it up a bit, though. 

Uganda is different than other vanilla growing regions around the world because it has two dry seasons each year. Two dry seasons means the vanilla vines are given two chances to bloom and thus, two chances for pollination. For the farmers, this also means more stable revenue. For consumers, it means fresher vanilla beans year-round. 

Why are Uganda’s Weather Conditions Good for Vanilla Cultivation?

Number of dry seasons aside, Uganda still provides ultimate growing conditions for propagating, growing, and curing large, fragrant vanilla beans with high vanillin content. Let’s take a look at what those growing conditions are. 

Uganda Has Low Fluctuations in Temperature and Warm Temperature Averages.

Vanilla beans, much like migrating birds or retirees who flock to Palm Springs each winter, prefer warm to hot weather that has very little fluctuation, with high daytime temperatures in the 85-95℉ range and nighttime temperatures that rarely drop below 60℉. Regardless if it is one of the two dry seasons or one of the two wet seasons, for most of Uganda, its own temperature parallels that required by the finicky vanilla bean orchid.

Uganda Has High Humidity. 

It’s not just the temperature that vanilla beans are fussy about. They mimic the preferences of goldilocks when it comes to moisture level—not too dry, not too wet, but “just right”. In absence of optimal humidity levels, the vanilla plant will either give way to blossom rot or severe thirst that ends in wilting or death. Neither condition is something that Ugandan farmers are often faced with because most of the country boasts the ideal mean humidity level for vanilla beans.

Of course, if you ask a dozen different vanilla bean growers from around the world what the optimal humidity range for growing vanilla beans is, you’ll get a dozen different answers, but the average year-round humidity level in most of Uganda falls within the ranges mentioned in every source we checked, staying between 50% and 70% year-round. 

Get your hands on some Ugandan vanilla beans and you will see, taste, and smell the difference. There will be no doubt in your mind that vanilla grown in Ugandan is truly something special.