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It’s the Peak of the Vanilla Flowering Season

Lisa and I spent a good part of the morn­ing out in the vanillery pol­li­nat­ing the flow­ers. We’ve been out there every morn­ing for sev­er­al weeks already, but today was dif­fer­ent. It seemed like the entire place was ablaze with the pale blos­soms: every­where you looked, flow­ers beck­oned as if to say “come taste my sweet nec­tar” but of course, we were not there for that. Pollinating a vanil­la flower takes del­i­ca­cy, a steady hand and a famil­iar­i­ty with the anato­my of the orchid’s bloom. After a while, you can do it quick­ly, which is good, because there are sev­er­al hun­dred of them ready to go today. There’s no wait­ing for these flow­ers, they’ll be closed for busi­ness by noon…it’s like… (read)

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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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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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2019 Harvest Season Begins!

Went out to the vanillery and was greet­ed with the sight of ripen­ing beans! You get used to the beans grow­ing for months, then all of a sudden…they’re turn­ing. This year seems a bit ear­li­er than usu­al, but that could have been expect­ed since the 2018 flow­er­ing sea­son also start­ed ear­ly. The flow­er­ing sea­son in Hawaii starts in January and extends through June. April and May are the peak nor­mal­ly, but trips to the vanillery every morn­ing need to hap­pen for a full 6 months! Picking the Ripe Beans When the beans ripen they need to be picked right away because they devel­op quick­ly once the yel­low­ing starts. We search the vanillery for ripened beans every 3 days or so to… (read)

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Ripe Green Vanilla Pods

We are at the peak of the har­vest sea­son, and dur­ing this time, we are har­vest­ing about a hun­dred beans out of the vanillery every two to three days. Choosing which beans to take requires some pret­ty sharp obser­va­tion: the col­or change can be hard to see in the shady tan­gle of vines. The beans were pol­li­nat­ed almost a year ago, and a lot of vine growth has tak­en place since then, bury­ing many of the brooms deep with­in the growth. In the dim light, it’s easy to mis­take the gen­tle light­en­ing that takes place as the bean matures for the clear sig­nal of true ripeness. Choosing the moment to har­vest any one bean is a bit of a game… (read)

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A Natural Vanilla Nursery

In the first sea­son of fruit in the vanillery, I let a cou­ple of beans ripen nat­u­ral­ly, as I some­times do when they’re too small or over­ripe. When they ripen on the vine, they split open, turn black and even­tu­al­ly the tiny, tiny seeds come out. I guess if things are just right where those seeds fall, they will ger­mi­nate and grow into new vines. This is, in my expe­ri­ence, pret­ty unusu­al. Most of the time none of those seeds sprout, and the lit­tle vines that emerge aren’t tough like full-grown vanil­la, they’re extreme­ly del­i­cate. It would­n’t take much going wrong for that sprout to not sur­vive. Near one of the bam­boo posts in the vanillery, it looks like the con­di­tions were just… (read)

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Peak Flowering Season 2016

This morn­ing I came across two racemes in the vanillery that had sev­en open blos­soms on each of them! This is real­ly quite unusu­al. When the vanil­la vines are real­ly grow­ing strong­ly, the flow­er­ing racemes can come out dou­ble or triple or more. Usually, the raceme is a sin­gle stalk of flow­ers with 1 — 20 flower buds on it. The buds will open usu­al­ly one at a time over a peri­od of sev­er­al weeks until they have all opened. When there is a huge amount of vital­i­ty in the vine, though, the raceme can include branch­es of racemes, mak­ing it pos­si­ble for a large num­ber of flow­ers to  sprout from a sin­gle node. This is a very good thing, because… (read)

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