How to grow vanilla

Vanilla grows best from a healthy cutting at least 50cm long. Remember, it is a tropical orchid, so loves high humidity, ample rainfall during the summer months, a dry winter season, NO FROST, and a good open growing medium.

Choose a sheltered, semi-shady spot (a hothouse is fine) where your climbing vanilla vine will have some support. You do not want it to get out of reach, so it needs to have somewhere to loop and hang over. This way you will be able to reach the vine when it is time for pollinating and picking. Your cutting has a “top” and a “bottom”. Look closely at the spot where the leaf joins the stem – there will be a small bud in the leaf axil; this is the “top”, or the direction that the plant has been growing. Take off the bottom couple of leaves and lay the whole stem onto the soil or a bed of mulch. Cover the middle section of the cutting with a good layer of mulch or dry leaves making sure that both ends are poking out – this will guard against rot until it gets established. Be generous with the mulch layer as this is all it has to live off!

Keep it watered through the warm summer months, and make sure the mulch retains dampness during the winter.

In about two to three years, your vine should be around 3m long. Around April (in the southern hemisphere), you will need to take out the growing tip to encourage the plant to flower. Flower buds will form in the leaf axil a few months later. The flowers will need to be hand pollinated. Best to contact your local orchid-grower to see if there is someone who can show you how to pollinate. Or email or phone Fiona for instructions! It is not difficult when you know how!!

Another nine months later, and your babies will be ready for picking and curing. More later…

“The aroma is sweet and unctuous, overall, it’s brighter and fruitier than traditional Madagascar-grown planifolia. They smell really fantastic. Inside, the beans are surprisingly wet with a rich red/brown oil. The caviar is extremely oily…”