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Vanilla harvest!

November 5, 2010

In my previous blogs ‘Vanilla in your garden’ I described how to grow and pollinate the orchid, and how the fruit developed. The Dokmai Garden vanilla flower was open for about four hours on March 20, and today (November 4th) I harvested the fruit. It looked yellowish for some days (when it should have been picked), but this morning it was black, soft and wrinkled, and fell into my hand when I touched it. This means it was overripe, but never mind, this is the first year’s trial.

1. The first step in vanilla preparation is the killing process. I used hot water to stop growth and stimulate enzymatic degradation, eventually resulting in the vanilla flavour. Soak the fruit at 63°C – 65°C for 2-3 minutes. Wrap the warm fruit in a cotton cloth and store for 24 hours in a box. This method is also called the Bourbon method, after the Bourbon island (old name for Réunion outside Madagascar). An alternative method is to kill the fruits in the sun, the Mexican method. That results in more hard end-products. If a fruit matures on the plant (like in this case), killing is not necessary.

2. After the 24 hour initial killing it is time for sweating. Expose the fruits in full sun for one hour. Then wrap them in the moist cloth for another two hours in the sun. Bring indoors and repeat the process for another six days.

3. Weigh the fruits, and then dry them in the shade for 2-3 months until they reach one third of the initial weight. A quicker way is to dry them in the oven at 50°C, but experimentation is needed to find out how long time that takes. A gentle drying is better. I shall try to use a kitchen dryer, i.e. one with a fan and a set temperature.

After these three steps of curing, there is an additional conditioning storage in airtight boxes for three months, were the flavours fully develop.

It seems a bit complicated, so it is not strange vanilla is expensive, and that growers deliver their beans to central factories, with routines for curing.

Eric Danell

An overripe vanilla fruit. It has no fragrance yet, but it looks delicious!

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. mami permalink
    November 5, 2010 9:27 AM

    wow! freshly cured vanilla! would it be possible to import some directly from you?

    • November 5, 2010 2:57 PM

      Dear Mami,

      We are still at the experimental stage, but if there is a market of course we could expand it. What is your plan/volume?

      Cheers, Eric

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