(Last Updated on : 06/06/2012)
Vanilla is a flavouring that can be derived from orchids of the genus Vanilla. It is a product which finds a great position among the gourmet. It is widely used for both commercial and domestic purpose such as baking, perfume creation and aroma therapy. Vanilla or vanilla orchids are flowering plant genus. Among the vanilla orchids, the most widely known member is the Flat-leaved Vanilla. It is the only orchid widely that is used in the food industry and also in the cosmetic industry. The botanical name of Vanilla include Vanilla fragrans (Salisbury) Ames, Vanilla planifolia Andrews, Vanilla pompona Schneider, Vanilla tahitensis Moore and the family name is Orichidaceae. However, in all Indian languages and dialects, it is called Vanilla.
This genus Vanilla is evergreen plant and it is found all over the world. Its habitat is both in the tropical as well as in the subtropical regions. Vanilla was traditionally not known to Indians. Europeans introduced it for flavouring dishes of the western preparations such as puddings, ice creams, cakes, and pastries. Thus, vanilla was popularized as an Indian flavouring and was used in traditional sweets like kheer, sandesh. Vanilla therefore became the second most expensive spice after saffron. It is highly valued in the country as well as the whole world for its flavour.
The plant vanilla ideally grows in South India during the months of August and September. The climatic condition required for the plant suitably found in South India. Vanilla is best grown when the intensity of the south west monsoon is low. The cultivation and processing in vanilla are found to happen in the farms in India that include: Niligiris Biosphere- Ooty, Coonoor , silent valley area-Mannarkad, Gudalur areas, Shimoga in Karnataka known as shimoga vanilla farms , Trivandrum orchid belts , Trichur and Palakkad sectors, Pollachi and Mettupalayam of Coimbatore districts. In addition to that Vanilla is also grown in Kerala, Karnataka, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Tamil Nadu and N.E Regions of India. By this time the support trees grown well. In addition to that good quality vines from disease free plants, sufficiently grown rooted cuttings or secondary hardened tissue-cultured plantlets can be used for planting. Stem cuttings selected for planting are kept in shade for about a week prior to planting. Generally three - four basal leaves of the cutting are clipped away before they are put in shade. It is recommended to dip the basal tip in one percent Bordeaux mixture or Bordeaux paste or Pseudomonas paste before planting the cutting. While planting, the defoliated basal portion of the cutting is to be placed in the loose soil, near the base of the support, just below the surface, in a half loop in such a way the basal tip is remains above the soil surface. The top end of the cutting is to be tied to the support. Mulching the base of the support tree with partially decomposed organic matter is recommended. It takes about four to eight weeks for the cutting to take root and to show signs of initial growth.
Vanilla can be grown best under filtered sunlight. However, it flourishes well in partial shade that cuts out the sunlight. As it is a creeper it requires support to grow and hence ead wood posts such as few species of Erythrina, Plumeria Alba and Glyricida are suitable standards for sprawling vines. Vanilla acquiesces about hundred grams cured beans per plant.
Different methods of curing vanilla after harvest were followed in the country. Of the various processes, the Mexican Process has been reported to be suitable for Indian condition. During curing, or the fermentation process, vanilla pods get the flavour as a result of naturally induced enzymatic action of Beta-glucosidase on the precursor Vanilla Beansglucovanillin with the formation of vanillin and sugar. Vanillin aroma is the dominant flavour characteristic of vanilla. Climatic conditions, timing of the harvest and the extent of sweating of the pods during curing are some of the important factors that determine the vanillin content and the quality of the pods.
The most important quality attributes of cured vanilla beans for grading purposes are: length of beans, aroma, color, flexibility, luster, and freedom from blemishes, mildew, and insect infestations. The well-cured beans thus graded and packed in airtight tin containers can help keeping it well for a long time.
The proximate composition of whole vanilla beans is as include:
|Moisture: 25.85 to 30.93 percent
||Vanillin: 1.48 to 2.90 percent
|Protein: 2.56 to 4.87 percent
||Resins: 1.5 to 2.6 percent
|Fatty oil: 4.68 to 6.74 percent
||Calcium: 19.7 percent
|Volatile oil : 0.0 to 0.4 percent
||Potassium: 16.2 percent
|Carbohydrates: 7.1 to 9.1 percent
||Sodium: 6.7 percent
|Fiber: 15.27 to 19.60 percent
||Phosphorus: 9.5 percent
|Ash: 4.5 to 4.7 percent
||Iron: 0.3 percent
Vanilla extracts are in great demand in India. The vanilla flavour can be extracted with alcohol. The colour of the extract depends upon the strength of the alcohol used, duration of extraction and the presence of glycerin. Dark coloured extract is obtained from dry beans and the presence of glycerin deepens the colour of the extract. Vanilla extract is either stored in stainless, aluminum or glass containers. When it is kept for 25 to 30 days, the aroma is improved due to formation of esters from acids in the presence of 42 to 45 percent alcohol. The vanilla extract mixed with sugar and made into a powder is called `powdered vanilla` or vanilla sugar. This has great demand in commercial market round the globe. Use of vanilla as source of medicine is practically forgotten. It is most popular as a flavouring agent known all over the world.