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First Harvest of the 2021 Season!

The cycle begins anew! This week we pulled our first har­vest out of the vanillery, offi­cial­ly start­ing the 2021 har­vest sea­son.  This year is slight­ly lat­er than most , typ­i­cal­ly we see our first har­vest in the first week or two of January. The har­vest sea­son typ­i­cal­ly goes until late April, so it’s a full 4 months of going into the vanillery to har­vest 3 times a week. This year we are expect­ing a small­er har­vest than last year. There were not as many flowers…not sure why but the crowd­ing in the vanillery could be one factor.

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The New Vanillery has been Built and Planted

We’ve been work­ing on get­ting this new vanillery (locat­ed on the north­west cor­ner of our prop­er­ty) built for a cou­ple of years now. This bit of land was not in use, and sev­er­al very large “weed” trees were in the way and need­ed to be removed. No point in plant­i­ng under a tree you’re going to cut down, so we had to wait until we had the help we need­ed to get the trees down. The sto­ry of get­ting rid of those trees is long and con­vo­lut­ed, it took sev­er­al tries to get the job done…but thanks to lots of able help (maha­lo: Jonathan, Tim, Christopher, Freddy) and sheer per­se­ver­ance, we got it done. Once the trees were cleared, we need­ed… (read)

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Building a Vanilla Sweat Box

This arti­cle is an addi­tion to the 2‑part How to Cure Vanilla Beans arti­cle.  A crit­i­cal stage in the cur­ing of vanil­la is the “sweat,” where the enzy­mat­ic process that devel­ops the vanillin takes place. The sweat box cre­ates an envi­ron­ment that holds the beans at the opti­mal tem­per­a­ture for this process. In the How to Cure Vanilla Beans arti­cle, I describe how to put togeth­er an ad hoc sweat box using a cool­er and hot water bot­tles. In this arti­cle, I will describe how I built the elec­tri­cal­ly heat­ed sweat box used to han­dle larg­er quan­ti­ties of vanil­la pods.

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How to Cure Vanilla Beans, Part 1

I occa­sion­al­ly get ques­tions from peo­ple who are grow­ing their own vanil­la and want to know the best way to cure the beans. Getting a good cure out of your beans can be a lit­tle chal­leng­ing, but hope­ful­ly, this guide will make it eas­i­er. It is essen­tial that vanil­la be prop­er­ly cured in order to obtain the desired aro­ma and fla­vor from your vanil­la beans. Processing vanil­la beans is a mat­ter of sup­port­ing both the vanillin devel­op­ment and the slow dry­ing of the bean in order to pre­serve it.

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The Amazon Vanilla Project

Peruvian vanil­la grow­er Ashley Britton has launched a project to bring vanil­la pro­duc­tion to the Peruvian Amazon to ben­e­fit the indige­nous Awajun peo­ple. Vanilla pom­pona has been wild­craft­ed in this part of the Amazon for a long time for local use, but with glob­al demand for real vanil­la grow­ing, this is a good time to estab­lish vanil­la pom­pona as an export prod­uct. The region suf­fered a set­back in its abil­i­ty to pro­vide a cash income when the cacao was reject­ed for too high a cad­mi­um con­tent. Ashley hopes that vanil­la, specif­i­cal­ly vanil­la extract, can sup­plant the lost cacao income.

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Pompona Vanilla from Peru

A cou­ple of months ago, I received an email from a a fel­low vanil­la grow­er in Peru named Ashley Britton. We have been exchang­ing knowl­edge and expe­ri­ences since then, and it has expand­ed my think­ing about what vanil­la is and how it can be grown. Ashley is grow­ing vanil­la in the moun­tain­ous rain for­est region of San Martín in Northern Peru. In that area, the vanil­la orchid that is found grow­ing wild is vanil­la pom­pona, a species of vanil­la that ranges from south­ern Mexico through north­ern South America. That rep­re­sents rough­ly the same range as vanil­la plan­i­fo­lia, the main species for agri­cul­ture, which we grow here on Kauai. San Martín is known for its orchids, and they are fea­tured in the… (read)

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