The vanilla is a Creeper, of the family Orchidaceae, whose pods, after some preparation, are either vanilla or Vanillon, according to the species. The aroma is vanillin, which has also been restored synthetically in 1891 from I'eugenol, extract from the oil of cloves.
Introduction of this vanilla in our islands
The Aztecs used vanilla well before the discovery of America. We do not know if the Caribbean did likewise. However, it is possible that its introduction into our islands will be made from Guyana, not before the beginning of the 18th century, in Martinique first, and then in Guadeloupe.
This is father Labat we have the description of the circumstances of its introduction:
"Two of our religious who passed to Cayenne in 1697, from Martinique, were perfectly received by the Jesuit fathers R.R. who have care of the spiritual in this country our fathers saw the Jesuits a few pots filled with these plants it had prepared to send in Europe: they testified in want, and soon R.R. fathers made them this a pot where it was three feet perfectly well taken... "I did immediately put these three plants in the land at the foot of a cocoa and I had care to water until what I screwed them pretty much repeated and strong enough to pass this relief. They took advantage of it very well, in less than eight months they covered all the tree against which I had supported. »
If things were as simple at their beginning, they became more complicated to the point that the small vanilla plantation was put at risk. Father Labat continued thus:
"The religious who succeeded me sent new Negroes to weed the candy which was vanilla, without warn them and make them it known; they took it for a regular vine, they cut off and wrested fully any vanilla... »
But this was without reckoning with the tenacity of the Reverend Father, because as soon as advised, he ran to the cocoa where he found on a tree, a branch of vanilla left inadvertently, which had pu touch the ground and take root.
Although father Labat was thought to bring some vanilla plants as early as the end of 1699, it is not before the month of November 1 701 that he wore eight feet which wiped some the giving rest of beautiful plants.
But the culture was hardly fruitful. Father Labat lives flower or fruit, and the adventure ended quickly, here's how.
The English broke in Guadeloupe in March 1703 and surrendered masters Baillif district. They wrested all Vanilla and, in all likelihood, carried off in England. Thus, the adventure of father Labat vanilla ended. It only lasted two years.
Father Labat unsuccessful tests prove that the culture of the vanilla is more often possible that fertilizing flower artificially. According to some authors, it was in 1836 that Edmond Albius, a former slave Reunionais, succeeded for the first time, in Liège, artificial pollination which is applied today in all regions where vanilla is grown. Other authors, on the other hand, feel that it is Mr. Neuman, head of greenhouses in the Museum of history natural of Paris, that is the merit of having made this discovery, in 1830. The cultivation of vanilla, in the West Indies, did not therefore not before the 19th century.
Duranta flowers, due to their conformation, do not pollinate themselves and it seems that neither birds nor insects do intervene effectively in the pollination of cultivated plants. However, Vanilliers abandoned on the outskirts of large wood produce pods. Research conducted in some vanilla-producing countries, in Mexico in particular, showed that the natural agent of pollination of the flower of the vanilla is a small bee, Melipone, which existed in our islands at the beginning of colonization, but which disappeared today.
Pollination must be done as soon as the blossoming of the flower, when the male organs (stamens) and female (stigma and ovaries) bodies are still fresh. It operates as follows: after having torn, with a burst of bamboo or a large pin, the lip that surrounds the stigma, lifting, pushing the tongue stigmatic and tilt the anther in the coupling on the stigma to coat it viscous pollen. Some time after, the pods appear.
A plant of great culture
Today, the major vanilla plantations disappeared; It is only very small family farms, whose production is intended for local consumption.
The Duranta uses the tree on which he climbs that as support, in has no substance, from which its name of epiphyte Liana. The choice of guardian is accurate. Indeed, the vanilla forms, with him, a kind of symbiosis, it must include fungi that live in mycorrhizal association with adventitious roots of the Liana.
Tutors, commonly used in our islands are: sweet pea and the Ashutosh.
The vanilla grown in our islands
Different species have been cultivated in Martinique: the species native to tropical South America, Vanilla pianifolia G.J., called "Vanilla" or «Good vanilla», that father Labat introduced in our islands.
There are Vanilla pompona Schiede, called "Vanillon" in Martinique, native to Central America. This vanilla is distinguished from the first leaves wider and thinner, by its larger and shorter fruit.
Note the presence of a native vanilla: Vanilla mexicana Mill. called 'Wild vanilla' or "Brown Vanilla" in our islands. Its fruit has no fragrance. We do not know if it was used by the Arawaks and the Caribbean.
How do you prepare vanilla beans to eat
Here is the recipe that knew the father Labat of a Jew of passage in Martinique:
"He told me that the Indians the gathered as soon as she started a little yellow, that after having done it boil moments in spirits, they were dried in the shade; being half dry they collars it between their fingers in its entire length, and finally, after the have rubbed with a little oil of Palma Christi, or coconut, they shrouded it in Heliconia Bihai leaves where it finished drying; and on all things, they took care to leave it in the Sun. »
«Watched exactly everything that this Jew had told me; I did various tests, and still unnecessarily from which I conclude that the vanilla which grew in Martinique was of a different species than the Cayenne and the new Spain, and thus should wait that I grew reported of the fruit, or that I pusse discover in some other way the means of preparing one we have in Martinique. »
This confirms the presence of a native species on this island.
Here is another recipe, opposite the first. Father Labat went so
"However I knew since being at Cádiz at the end of 1705 that any ceremony that make the Indians to accommodate their vanilla was the pick up as soon as they realized that she wanted to turn yellow, and open, they put the sweat and ferment as I said that it was cocoa, for two or three days, and then they put the dry in the Sun. '' When she was half dry, they collars it between their fingers, and that after the have rubbed of Palma Christi oil, coconut or Cabral, they were still in the Sun to finish drying, after which they the rubbing their oil a second time, and the involved packages they covered leaves Heliconia Bihai or Cachibou.
This method is quite different from that of the Jew; but as I did not have the convenience of experience it since I know I do not assure whether the real. Yet I have suggests, because I learned of credible people, and which appeared to me to be very well educated. It is natural to think that the Jew was ignorant or a deceiver, and maybe both together, this being not quite extraordinary in these kinds of people. »
As can be seen, father Labat was not always tender for everyone, sometimes had preconceived ideas.
His preparation of our days
It is certainly not as complicated as the first two. Savvy manufacturers told us that the preparation of the vanilla remains a very simple operation.
Just pick the mature pods, with a PIN, to 'bleed', i.e. to small lines to bring out the juice. Then we wrap in flannel fabric; to prevent mold, they must be from time to time in the Sun. After a few days, the aroma of vanilla is felt.