Real World Gardener Spice It Up with Vanilla

September 21st, 2014

REAL WORLD GARDENER Wed. 5pm 2RRR 88.5fm Sydney, streaming live at and Across Australia on the Community Radio Network.<?xml:namespace prefix = "o" />


The complete CRN edition of RWG is available on , just click on 2RRR to find this week’s edition. The new theme is sung by Harry Hughes from his album Songs of the Garden. You can hear samples of the album from the website


with Ian Hemphill from

proxy?url=http%3A%2F%2F4.bp.blogspot.comThe Vanilla bean orchid 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 and where the temperature doesn't fall below 200C


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

The plant you need to grow is Vanilla planifolia "Andrews" if you can get it.





The green vanilla bean itself has no odour or flavour.

It's not until heated that the enzyme within the bean comes to life.

Then the process begins of being put out in the sun during the day and wrapped in blankets at night fir 28 days.

Let’s find out what’s great about this spice.


To get the vanilla bean the flower must be pollinated by the Melipone bee which is almost extinct in Mexico.

For that reason, even in Mexico, each vanilla bean flower on every vanilla bean farm, needs to be hand pollinated to get the bean.

Outside of Mexico of course there's no alternative anyway.

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

proxy?url=http%3A%2F%2F2.bp.blogspot.comThis 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.

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.

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.

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

Seems to be doing pretty well.

If you have any questions about growing Vanilla orchids, drop us a line to

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