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2018 Harvest Season Begins!

This is the first year we are get­ting a full har­vest out of the vanillery. It’s been a good year, growth-wise, maybe even too good. The vines are grow­ing so thick­ly now, it’s hard to see the beans for har­vest­ing. This har­vest sea­son actu­al­ly began on January 3, we missed a few ear­ly ones, but on that day I har­vest­ed 3 dozen beans. It seems to be com­ing in much ear­li­er this year. Last year’s first har­vest was in February some­time. I can only guess that the onset of the har­vest sea­son moves around a lot. Today’s har­vest was par­tic­u­lar­ly boun­ti­ful in terms of bean size. In the pho­to, I’m hold­ing one of the biggest beans I’ve ever seen, 240mm in… (read)

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Our First Full-Scale Flowering in the Vanillery

The vanillery is exact­ly 3 years old now. This Spring, for the first time, we’re see­ing full flow­er­ing on all the rows. This is great news for vanil­la pro­duc­tion here, our last two years have seen fair­ly small har­vests. At this rate, there may be many hun­dreds of pods in here for next win­ter’s har­vest. Having this many flow­ers does require a sig­nif­i­cant time invest­ment to get them all pol­li­nat­ed. This is the peak of the flow­er­ing cycle, and we’re see­ing 1 — 1 1/2 hours of pol­li­nat­ing each morn­ing, and that will keep up for 2 — 3 weeks. You def­i­nite­ly have to plan your morn­ing around that.

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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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Grading the 2016 Harvest

Took the beans out of their box today: it’s time to grade the har­vest. The last beans came off the open-air dry­ing racks two months ago, and they’ve been con­di­tion­ing in their box since then. The beans are grad­ed at this point, divid­ed into the two grades by size, mois­ture con­tent, and appear­ance. The grade A beans are bun­dled and placed in the con­di­tion­ing box for anoth­er 7 months, so there is a total of 9 months of con­di­tion­ing after the dry­ing is com­plete. The cured beans are sold to the culi­nary trade for direct use in recipes. They are brown in col­or and filled with fra­grant, oily “caviar,” the seeds and pulp of the vanil­la pod after cur­ing. This is… (read)

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We Add a Personal Weather Station

Today, we hoist­ed our Ambient Weather WS-1400IP sen­sor unit atop it’s mount­ing pole. I’ve always want­ed to keep our own local weath­er data, and with the addi­tion of this device, we are offi­cial­ly col­lect­ing data and shar­ing it on the net. We’re still work­ing out some of the details, but this is a excit­ing devel­op­ment as far as I’m con­cerned. We call the sta­tion “Queen’s Acres,” which is one of the names used for our neigh­bor­hood on the back side of Nonou Mountain near Kapaa. Our data stream is vis­i­ble on Weather Underground at KHIKAPAA19

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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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New Shoots

It occurred to me today that count­ing new shoots might be a good way to mon­i­tor the flow­er­ing poten­tial of the vanillery. I was inspect­ing the vines and think­ing about ways to quan­ti­fy the suc­cess of each plant­i­ng. For each cut­ting we plant­ed, most sprout­ed one new shoot, a few more than one. Enough time has passed so that some of the orig­i­nal new shoots have thrown off new shoots them­selves. Since each node of the vanil­la plant can either grow a new shoot or flower once (if at all), it is nec­es­sary to keep the vines con­stant­ly grow­ing. Maintaining a good num­ber of grow­ing tips means more poten­tial flow­er­ing loca­tions for the next sea­son. First year vines are smooth and soft to the… (read)

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First vanilla buds of the year

While the first vanil­la pods of the sea­son are com­ing in, the first flower buds are also appear­ing. Some of these spurts of new growth will result in new vines, branch­ing off of the mature vines, but most of these will form the flow­er­ing racemes. The ear­ly spring is when a lot of new growth occurs, and the vanil­la farmer (me) watch­es with some appre­hen­sion as the flow­er­ing racemes appear (or not!) deter­min­ing the size of the new sea­son’s crop. In a week or so, the morn­ing rit­u­al of the hand pol­li­na­tion will begin. The flow­er­ing sea­son of 2014 was light for us, sev­er­al areas nev­er went to flower, so the 2015 har­vest sea­son will be small.  One of the things we’ve… (read)

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Hand-Cured Vanilla Beans and Extract from Kauaʻi

Today we’re rolling out our first prod­ucts for sale! Over the years, we’ve sold these beans through friends, at local farmer’s mar­kets and to local culi­nary pro­fes­sion­als, and though we always intend­ed to make our beans wide­ly avail­able, we always seemed to be too busy to make that hap­pen. Well, now it’s time to offer our unique prod­uct to every­one on the inter­net. Our first offer­ings will be very sim­ple: Grade A and Grade B whole vanil­la beans and 2‑ounce bot­tles of our home­made Kauaʻi rum vanil­la extract.

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