How does vanilla grow?

How does vanilla grow?

1 - How does a vanilla tree grow in a vanilla plantation?

The vanilla tree grows in tropical and equatorial zones.
High humidity and temperatures are favourable to its development.
Ideally, it needs a temperature of around 25°C and a soil rich in organic matter.
The addition and renewal of a good humus base will allow the vine to grow easily.

Cuttings of about 1.5 m are placed on a stake, often in plantations a living stake is used (filao type, candle wood).
The roots will draw from the soil the nutrients necessary for the good development of the vanilla tree.
Also, the adventitious roots allow to cling to the support and to capture the humidity available on the stake.

In order for the vanilla tree not to be subject to direct light, it will be necessary to grow shade plants in the plantation.
In many vanilla plantations, one can create an ideal environment by integrating banana trees, coconut trees, exotic plants (stabilizing the soil).

Vanillier de vanille pompona

2 - The first flowerings of the Vanilla tree

The first flowerings generally occur after 3 years.
When the flowering period arrives in the producer country, one can remove some shade to create a thermal stress on the vanilla tree.
The thermal stress will allow an acceleration of the flowerings in the plantation.
A hydric stress on the same period can also lead to an early or global flowering on the plantation.

3 - How to pollinate a Vanilla flower ?

Here are the three steps to properly pollinate a vanilla flower:

  1. Hold the flower with your left hand with a finger under the corolla (center of the flower) to make a support. Tear the labellum with a lemon or orange thorn.
  2. With the lemon thorn, gently lift the rostellum (stigma that separates the stamens - female organ), in order to hide it under the anther (male organ).
  3. Finally, the thumb is pressed to bring it into contact with the stigma.

In the producing countries, these tasks are often reserved for women.
They are called "marieuse" because they create a connection between a male and female organ during fertilization.
A qualified marieuse can fertilize more than 1500 vanilla flowers per day.

After 2 months of patience, the vanilla bean will have reached its adult size.
After 8 to 9 months, the bean will be mature (without vanilla flavour).

Bourgeon de fleur de vanille

4. Harvesting of the vanilla pods and maturing

After harvesting the vanilla pods in full maturitythe Bourbon technique is the most used.

You can discover the different steps that are used to dry a vanilla bean here.