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 a breakfast-only restaurant, miss it and you’ve lost your chance to eat. Each flower is only going to open once, so no excuses, get out there and do what needs to be done!
Not that it is unpleasant, not at all. We’re out in nature in the quiet morning, dew sparkling in the sun. Of course the birds are singing: cardinals and shama closest by, mynas, doves and parakeets in the distance. The cardinals are our most avid singers, they sing forth in the morning and again at dusk. The shama is a better singer, if virtuosity counts, but the cardinals are louder and more unctuous.
Those cardinals are close by because around the vanillery we’ve planted a hedge of one of our most useful plants, Flemingia macrophylla, a nitrogen-fixing member of the pea family that is an excellent source of mulch. The little pods it produces are a favorite of the seed-eating birds around here: white-eyes, finches, and of course the cardinals, who sing in the hedges and noisily munch on the Flemingia seeds.
The vanilla flowering season extends for about 3 months, we start in March typically, with the height of the season in mid to late May. We’ll be pollinating stragglers through June, although there’s less to do even if there are plenty of blooms because once a raceme has enough pollinated beans developing, we stop pollinating that raceme. Over-pollination results in small beans, which are not of much use.
In about 9–10 months, our pollinated flowers will have become ripe vanilla beans, ready for harvest.
12 thoughts on “It’s the Peak of the Vanilla Flowering Season”
What a lovely post Roland, your vanillery sounds like a wonderful place to work, how nice to have bird songs to accompany your pollination efforts!
My one vanilla vine is loaded with flowers this year. I have to access this huge vine by ladder since it is growing up a post on my two story home on Maui! I do love the faint smell of the flowers while I’m pollenating way up there on the ladder:)
One raceme will have as many as 25 flowers on it, how many flowers do you end up pollenating on each raceme? I have over-done it in the past and do end up with many under-sized beans.
Thanks to you this will be my third year growing and curing vanilla beans, mahalo for all the information you have shared in your posts.
Glad to hear your vanilla is doing so well!
When we pollinate, we limit the number of beans to 7–9 beans per raceme. It might even be less if the vine is not strong, there’s kindof a judgement call you need to make about that. Another thing to consider is to only pollinate the flowers on the sides and bottom of the raceme, this encourages them to grow straighter. Beans that come out of the top of the raceme will grow in a curve. You can still use curved beans, but it’s nice to optimize for the straighter beans.
Wow, that makes so much sense, thank you for the tips Roland!
I’ll best it smells divine too!!
It is fragrant out there…but one of the magical things about vanilla is that it doesn’t smell like vanilla until the beans are cured.
Is it possible to purchase green beans at various maturity from your farm? I am doing a study to determine if I can use an equipment to track down bean maturity. I will need 1 pound for each sampling, possibly 2x a month until the beans are 11 months of age. Thank you.
Although your study sounds very interesting, and I’d love to see the results, it’s not really practical for me to do this for you…also, it would be expensive, a pound of green beans is worth well over $100!
This study is very important. I can purchase the green beans for more than $100 per pound for this study. Please let me know how to proceed. I can provide you with the credit card to use for the purchase. Please email me directly. Thanks!
This study is very important. I can purchase the green vanilla beans for more than $100 per pound. Please let me know how to proceed. Please email me directly. Thanks!
I had Vanilla Orchids Bloom in January this year on Hawaii Island. Is this normal?
There are occasional out-of-season flowers, but we’re pretty close to the normal season (March) and this year, we’re seeing early flowering here too. I saw my first buds the last week of January and now I’m seeing quite a few flowering buds. Flowers haven’t opened yet, but they will by the end of the month. I think that flowers in January is pretty early, but it does vary from year to year.
Thanks for the great Knowledge,am in Uganda and just started 2 and half year but they are flowering I didn’t know that u do pollinate few of them for better quality