There are quite a few exotic meals, containing orchids as food ingredients. For example, Phalaenopsis gigantea’s leaves are used in salads, as well as Liparis japonica’s leaves and Satyrium’s bulbs. Cymbidium species are sometimes used to cook delicious and precious sauces, Jewel orchids such as Ludisia and Anoectochillus are used as pot herbs, Dendrobium salaccense has extremely fragrant and spicy leaves, which can be used as a precious spice, and Neottia wardii is cooked into delicacy porridge in Asia. But all these food with orchids are somewhat regale meals, and limited to local places. But there is an orchid, which is grown worldwide, especially for food use. And this is Vanilla orchid. Vanilla beans are unripe fruits of Vanilla orchid, which are processed and fermented to produce famous Vanilla flavor. Vanilla is the most famous orchid, in fact, Vanilla flavor became some synonym for something classical, conventional – for instance in sex, Vanilla sex is standard, conventional sexual intercourse. Even though some do not even realize that Vanilla is actually an orchid, Vanilla is the most widely used orchid, which has economical importance, and probably, everyone is familiar with vanilla flavoring used in cooking.
Vanilla is a genus of orchids, belonging to Vanilloidae subfamily, which is a sister group to Epidendroidae and Orchidoidae, which means that Vanilla is one of the most ancient orchids. The Vanilla genus contains 108-110 currently recognized species of vine-like orchids (hence the name Vanilla, which is derived from Spanish vaina, which means pod). The most widely grown species is Vanilla planifolia or Vanilla bean plant (flat-leaved Vanilla ), which can grow up to 115 feet long. It has 3 inch wide creamy-yellow fragrant flowers, which are born only on a mature, 10 feet long plant. There are also extremely nice variegated varieties of this species. In addition, there is also quite interesting Vanilla aphylla or leafless Vanilla. It has no leaves at all, it uses its aerial roots both for photosynthetic purposes and for climbing up. The flowers of Vanilla aphylla are 2 inches wide, yellowish with a pink lip. Vanilla pompona has large, 5 inch wide showy fragrant flowers, which are yellow.
Culture and care
Vanillas are monopodial vine-like plants. Another feature is that these plants have aerial roots growing from each node. Vanilla like most orchids is epiphytic but can grow as a terrestrial plant as well.
Vanilla likes bright sun and warm temperatures all year round. It requires some rigid support like a bamboo pole to climb up on. In native conditions, Vanilla planifolia can climb up trees to 30-35 m. It’s fast-growing orchid, but it has to grow up to about 10 feet tall until it can flower, which usually takes 5 or 6 years. Flowers are greenish-yellow, with diameter 5 cm. They last less than one day. They open in the morning and close by the afternoon.
A potting mixture for Vanilla should have a high water capacity, that’s why just using only bark wouldn’t be a very good choice. Instead, sphagnum moss or terrestrial mixtures with some amount of moss would be nice. Try to keep the mix always a little bit moist. These plants obtain water not only by its ground roots, but also they should obtain some water by its aerial roots. Vanilla bean plant likes high air humidity. If air humidity isn’t high in the aria where you grow vanilla, you can use a pole wrapped with moss, and you should moisten the pole at least once a day to keep it a little bit damp.
You can trim your vanilla, if it grows too big. By the way, this orchid can be easily propagated by cutting off the steam, and each cut should have at least one or two area roots.
If you want to obtain vanilla beans from your plant, you have to pollinate your orchid. It’s not very difficult to learn to do this, for example, you can watch how it should be done correctly in this video. After your vanilla has been pollinated, you should wait for several months until the beans ripen. And then you should apply some rather curing methods to make the beans edible.