Real World Gardener Vanilla Bean in Spice It Up

March 9th, 2017


Vanilla Bean Orchid Vanilla planifolia

The plant that this next spice comes from originates in the highland forests of Mexico, so that gives you some idea of where it grows best.

Somewhere warm and humid.

But hey, don’t let that stop you from trying to grow it, after all it’s an orchid.

Let’s find out what’s great about this spice. Im talking with owner of Ian Hemphill


If you buy imitation vanilla essence then you’re buying a mixture made from synthetic substances which imitate the vanilla smell and flavour.

This often contains propylene glycol which is also found in automotive antifreeze!

It’s mass produced and relatively cheap but, of course, not in the same class as true vanilla extract.



Growing Vanilla planifolia

If you want to try to grow this orchid, you must be sure to get Vanilla planifolia-used to be called Vanilla fragrans.

The flowers are like a skinny Cattleya (that’s an orchid) flower and they’re yellow.

The plant usually doesn’t flower until it’s at least 3 metres tall and it can reach a size of 20 metres and more.

A friend of mine has the variegated one growing in his laundry that faces north.

Seems to be doing pretty well.

If you're in an area where you can grow this orchid and have it flower, then you'll have to pollinate it yourself to get the vanilla bean.

The only natural pollinator is the Melipone Bee which is native to Mexico and thought to be extinct.

Should your vanilla bean orchid produce a green bean, luck you, but this will have no vanilla flavour.

It takes many weeks of drying and sweating before the pod is ready to be used in cooking.

If you have any questions about growing Vanilla orchids, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.