Saturday, September 8, 2007

Vanilla Orchid

Click on the image for enlarged view ...
Of all the orchids, the vanilla family is the only one that produces an agriculturally valuable crop.
The Vanilla Orchid [Vanilla planifolia] grows wild on the edges of tropical forests. The species name "planifolia" comes from Latin meaning "flat-leaved". It has thick, fleshy stems and small, greenish flowers which open early in the morning ready to be pollinated by hummingbirds and bees.
The flowers have only a slight scent, with no element of the vanilla flavour or aroma. There are usually about 20 flowers on a Vanilla Orchid plant's raceme and usually only one flower in a raceme opens in a day, with the entire flowering period of the raceme lasting an average of 24 days. The flower opens in the morning and closes in the afternoon, never to reopen. If it is not pollinated, it will shed the next day.The optimum time for pollination is midmorning.
Once pollinated, the ovaries swell and develop into fruits called ‘pods’ similar to long, thin runner beans. They contain thousands of tiny black seeds. The pods develop over 4 weeks; they are then harvested, dried and cured to produce the distinctive flavour we know and love.Vanilla is one of the most popular flavours in the world. It was first used by the Aztec people, in its native Central America, to flavour cocoa.

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