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Home > Types of Spices > Fruits > Vanilla
Vanilla Fruit
Vanilla FruitBotanical name:Vanilla fragrans (Salisbury) Ames.
Vanilla planifolia Andrews.
Vanilla pompona Schneider.
Vanilla tahitensis Moore.
Family name:Orichidaceae.

Indian names are as follows: In all languages and dialects…Vanilla.

Vanilla was traditionally not known to Indians. Europeans introduced it for flavoring dishes of western origin like puddings, ice creams, cakes, and pastries. Later when it was popularized Indian started flavoring their traditional sweets like kheer, sandesh etc.

The vanilla pods or sticks of commerce are the cured fruits or beans of the plant, which is a climbing orchid. It is a native of Atlantic coast from Mexico to Brazil. Vanilla cultivation spread to other countries after the discovery of America. The important vanilla producing countries are: Madagascar, Mexico, Tahiti, Comoro, Reunion, Indonesia etc.

Different methods of curing vanilla after harvest are being followed in different countries. Of the various processes, the Mexican Process has been reported to be suitable for Indian condition. During curing, or the fermentation process, vanilla pods get the flavor as a result of naturally induced enzymatic action of Beta-glucosidase on the precursor glucovanillin with the formation of vanillin and sugar. Vanillin aroma is the dominant flavor characteristic of vanilla. Climatic conditions, timing of the harvest, and the extent of sweating of the pods during curing are some of the important factors that determine the vanillin content and the quality of the pods.

The most important quality attributes of cured vanilla beans for grading purposes are: length of beans, aroma, color, flexibility, luster, and freedom from blemishes, mildew, and insect infestations. The well-cured beans thus graded and packed in airtight tin containers can keep well for a long time.

The proximate composition of whole vanilla beans is as under:
Vanilla BeansMoisture:25.85 to 30.93%
Protein:2.56 to 4.87%
Fatty oil:4.68 to 6.74%
Volatile oil:0.0 to 0.4%
Carbohydrates:7.1 to 9.1%
Fiber:15.27 to 19.60%
Ash:4.5 to 4.7%
Vanillin:1.48 to 2.90%
Resins:1.5 to 2.6%

Vanilla extracts are in great demand in America while cured vanilla beans in European countries. The vanilla flavor can be extracted with alcohol. The color of the extract depends upon the strength of the alcohol used, duration of extraction and the presence of glycerin. Dark colored extract is obtained from dry beans and the presence of glycerin deepens the color of the extract. Vanilla extract is either stored in stainless, aluminum or glass containers. Ageing for 25 to 30 days improves the aroma, due to formation of esters from acids in the presence of 42 to 45% alcohol. Wooden containers must be avoided.

Vanilla ExtractThe vanilla extract mixed with sugar and made into a powder called `powdered vanilla` or vanilla sugar, which has great demand in commercial market round the globe.

Use of vanilla as source of medicine is practically forgotten. It is most popular as a flavoring agent known all over the world. In the USA, most of the vanilla flavor is marketed in the form of pure vanilla extracts.

Vanillin is an important product extracted from vanilla. It has market demand all over the globe and fetches much higher value.

The ideal time to plant vanilla in south Indian conditions is August September months when the intensity of the south west monsoon is low. By this time the support trees should have grown well. Good quality vines from disease free plants, sufficiently grown rooted cuttings or secondary hardened tissue-cultured plantlets can be used for planting. Stem cuttings selected for planting should be kept in shade for about a week prior to planting. Generally three - four basal leaves of the cutting are clipped away before they are put in shade. It is recommended to dip the basal tip in one percent Bordeaux mixture or Bordeaux paste or Pseudomonas paste before planting the cutting. While planting, the defoliated basal portion of the cutting is to be placed in the loose soil, near the base of the support, just below the surface, in a half loop in such a way the basal tip is above the soil surface. The top end of the cutting is to be tied to the support. Mulching the base of the support tree with partially decomposed organic matter is recommended. It takes about four to eight weeks for the cutting to take root and to show signs of initial growth.
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