Vanilla beans reviewed: 12 Vanuatu planifolia.
Cost: Review beans were included with a book order.
Piero Bianchessi started organic vanilla cultivation in Vanuatu in 1987. After founding Venui Vanilla, he began sustainable production of other spices. He now works with “more than 200 organic-certified producers spread over seven Vanuatu islands”.
I purchased Piero’s vanilla cultivation book, and he included several Vanuatu grown vanilla beans for this review. You can browse the Venui Vanilla store, but there’s not yet an easy way to process online payments to Vanuatu. I mailed my order with US currency and received a package less than four weeks later.
The beans were vacuum packed.
Vanuatu Vanilla Planifolia (12 sample beans, 20-22cm)
Very long, oily, flexible, black vanilla beans. The third longest vanilla bean featured on this site (March 2008, check the latest list). Very round and straight, like a long number 2 pencil. These beans are average in width, which actually seems a bit slender given their exceptional length.
In almost every bunch of vanilla beans there are a few with a small split (less than 2 cm/1 inch) in the end. This is quite common and doesn’t impact the grade of the bean. Nearly half of the Vanuatu beans have split ends, which does seem higher than average. According to Piero:
Most of the vanilla aroma comes from enzymatic fermentation of glucovanillin, a sugar that develop in the beans when fully ripe. Ripest the bean more the vanillin. For that reason we train the farmers to wait until the vanilla planifolia start to split….slightly. It is the only way to be sure that the vanilla in harvested ripe. The beans [are] not so nice, but it has a much better aroma
The beans were not strongly aromatic until I cut into them, then they released a wonderful sweet-spice vanilla aroma. A very nice aroma, mellow vanilla with sweet spices — perhaps nutmeg or ginger.
The caviar is soft and airy, even a bit sandy. Not at all muddy. Caviar yield is average.
Vanilla. Agriculture & Curing Techniques. Large paperback. ($16.50 + $20 shipping)
This is a photographic guide to operating a vanilla plantation with minimal equipment. It uses lots of color illustrations and simple language to convey the basics of farming and marketing a vanilla crop.
The book is absolutely fascinating. Color image sequences illustrate the amount of moisture that remains in a vanilla bean at various stages of the curing process. It also has all the info necessary to prevent and contain disease/pest outbreaks in a vanilla crop.
I was especially interested in the section on killing techniques. It shows the materials used in the ‘sun’ (Mexican) and ‘water’(Bourbon) killing methods, and pictures of fully and partially killed beans.
While I don’t plan to start my own vanilla plantation, this book improved my skills as a vanilla reviewer. The full color pictures, simple language, and exotic subject matter make it a enviable coffeetable book.
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