Vanilla

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Characterised by its delicate, subtle fragrance, vanilla is the quintessential symbol of a long aromatic tradition, with which PROVA's history is closely intertwined.

Vanilla, Magic of an orchid

Shrouded in mystique, vanilla, the “queen of spices” has a long history of intrigue, adventure and magic. Legend has it that the Aztec emperor Montezuma welcomed the conquistador Hernan Cortez with xocolãtl, a vanilla flavoured chocolate beverage, served in golden goblets. The symbol of an entire aromatic tradition, its tale begins in the era of the Mayas and Aztecs, after which it found its way to Europe, to Bourbon Island (now Reunion), before finally being introduced to Madagascar where it has flourished for over 180 years.

An attractive climbing creeper belonging to the orchid family, Vanilla Planifolia is the only orchid whose fruit is edible. It requires a support plant to create shade and grows in the damp undergrowth of tropical rainforests. Its fruits, referred to as beans, resemble large green haricot beans. They grow in bunches on the creeper and are harvested when ripe, before undergoing a long curing process, to become a highly prized spice.  
The beans are left to dry for several months during which time countless flavour molecules are released during the enzymatic fermentation, generating the distinctive vanilla fragrance. Six kilos of green beans are needed to produce one kilo of black beans ready for use...

Vanilla, the focus of much attention

In addition to dexterity, flexibility and speed, the preparation process also necessitates a knowledge of good practice, derived from the ancestral know-how of Malagasy farmers. To ensure that the green beans ripen into glossy black strips, a series of steps are needed and delicate and patient work must be done in order to tame this capricious flower:

Pollinisation

Outside their country of origin, vanilla flowers must be pollinated by hand. This stage consists of delicately removing the rostellum using a splinter of wood, then exerting a slight pressure on the flower so that the pollen is sprinkled onto the stigma and pollinates it. Speed and precision are essential, as there are hundreds of thousands of flowers to pollinate in the plantation.

Scalding

9 months after pollination, the green beans are finally ready to be harvested. The first stage of curing green vanilla is to immerse it for around three minutes in water heated to a temperature of 65 degrees to prevent any organic changes.

Sweating

When drained, the beans are wrapped in woollen cloths in large wooden crates, where they take on their characteristic glossy brown hue.

Drying

The beans are dried on drying racks first of all in the sun for one to two weeks, then after sorting, in the shade for several months.

Packing

Only then do they begin to acquire their sublime fragrance: a complex bouquet emitted both on the surface of the bean and in the thousands of black seeds it contains.

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