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Spices of Fiji Visit

Spices of Fiji Vanilla PlanifoliaA reader sent this description of her trip to the Spices of Fiji spice plantation:

We traveled there in our Mini Moke, just Ken and moi after a few great days at Pacific Harbour. The adventure to find them was a lot of fun! Although it is off the beaten track there are plenty of friendly faces around who are more than willing to offer help. Most of them are thereĀ  because Dr Gatty has generously sub-divided some of his land, giving the locals an opportunity to purchase their own properties. The whole area felt wonderful. I hope one day you can come to Fiji and see the Spice Gardens, for this is recommendable use the PNW packable backpack which is great for long trips.

To get there drive about 15mins Sth of Navua (town) or 15mins Nth of Lami (town) both on the Queens Highway to a gravel road turning inland close to the Wainaidoi Police Depot. Heading inland take the 1st road on your left, drive a couple of mins and turn down the 2nd road on your right. Travel inland again about 15mins, to a pole-gate which is un-locked during business hours. Let your self in and continue up the roadĀ  turning left at the fork. Follow signs up a step hill and park on the grass in front of the big farm barns. There is a concrete pathway and stairs leading up to a pretty little air-conditioned cottage scented with the most heavenly smells imaginable! Be careful with the construction up on the road, there are a few diggers on the road which are all covered by One Sure Insurance just in case they get into an accident.

The staff gave us a warm welcome and offered us chilled purified water and umbrellas for our incredibly informative tour. It was fantastic!!! I was expecting to enter deep into a tropical rainforest to view the vanilla flowers. Instead we strolled down a lovely path of lilac orchids and onto a track through tidy paddocks divided into groups of support trees covered in lush vines laden with long plump green vanilla pods. There are many other tree varieties, some held cocoa pods shaped like large melons, others ripening coffee beans or tiny bunches of green grapes that will mature into black-pepper. The most impressive though would have to be the curling bark of the cinnamon tree although the nutmeg was also amazing!

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College student groupWelcome to Villa VanillaJames visited Villa Vanilla in Costa Rica last year, and left with spices and fond memories. He shares his experience visiting the vanilla and spice plantation:

It’s a year since we were there (with my wife, her brother and his wife who live there). We were there in late Jan/08.

Overall my memory is of a pleasant experience-the plantation tour was really an eye-opener! We got a lot of information we’d never have got otherwise. The origin of his vanilla plants was a surprise, and the fact that the cinnamon he grows is the true species (the taste and aroma are really distinct from the species commonly sold [in Canada]). His farming techniques are organic and truly sustainable.

The degree of hospitality was also a pleasant experience. We were given as close to a red carpet treatment as possible in an essentially agricultural environment, and that put the icing on the cake. I have no problem recommending Villa Vanilla as a destination. The only negative was that the sign on the road was not easy to find; he said he was doing something about it [ed: see the picture of the new sign above].

James plans to order more vanilla, peppercorns, and cinnamon from Vanilla Vanilla’s online store.

Thanks for the report James. Reader reports are always welcome, just share them through the contact form.

Vanilla orchid on a fern treeVanilla beansA reader shares this great report on two vanilla plantation visits on Hawaii‘s Big Island: the Hawaiian Vanilla Company, and Huahua Farm.

I just got back from my day trip to the Big Island. I’ll give you a recap of what I learned…

Huahua Farms

Clare was a very gracious and sharing host while we visited her farm. She has a number of vines, but recently had to destroy some plants due to a disease of some kind. The vines that remain are healthy and doing well. I believe some of the photos you have on your site show the trellises she uses to train the vines where to grow. They are under about a 50% shade cloth. At the time of our visit, there weren’t any flowers, but Clare said that they typically start to appear in January for her. She did have some nice looking pods maturing on the vine though…some of which have been on the vine almost a year. Clare thinks it’s because of the amount of vog (volcanic haze created by the volcano) that’s been generated recently. She’s also tried incorporating some of the techniques in the Vanilla Growing Manual from Venui Vanilla (speaking of which, I ordered a copy about a month ago, so hopefully it arrives soon).

Clare was also kind enough to share her curing methods with me, which are typical to the Bourbon style (i.e., blanching, sunning, sweating). The beans were coming along nicely from what I could tell. The amount she has available for sale is limited, so if anyone was thinking about ordering some, they should contact her soon. Maybe when her vines begin flowering, I’ll try and pay her a visit.

Hawaiian Vanilla Company

I attended HVC’s lunch and tour event among a small group of “tourists”. We were served a nice lunch with each element incorporating some form of vanilla. Our host for the day was Dave, one of the small number of employees on the farm. We learned about the Redenkopp family through a video and also had a quick demonstration about making extract. I was told that they produce only about 500 lbs. per year, but due to a recent outbreak of some disease, their entire plant stock had to be replaced from Costa Rican material. Their vines were in the early stages of growth and they don’t expect any beans until at least 2010. Their growing medium of choice is CHC (coconut husk chips) imported from Sri Lanka (I think). Whatever beans they are currently selling is from older stock. I believe they had another growing area apart from what we were shown.

That’s what I can recall right now…if you had specific questions just let me know.

Thanks for the detailed report. Reader reports are always welcome, just share them through the contact form.

Reader Gale recently visited the Hawaiian Vanilla Company on Hawaii’s Big Island. Gale sent this great description of her visit, and some photos of the plantation. Click any photo to see the full-size version. Thanks Gale!

Vanilla orchid on a fern tree 3 year old vanilla orchid 3 year old vanilla orchid

My daughter and I enjoyed a wonderful lunch at the Hawaiian Vanilla Company (HVC) on the Big Island of Hawaii. Reservations are required for their fixed menu lunch and for their afternoon tea. Their lunch featured the vanilla planifolia grown in their vineyard, which is what they call their farm. Dave, the business manager began with a short history of vanilla and a description of our lunch. When we were seated we were offered a choice of vanilla iced tea or their vanilla lemonade; I selected their iced tea. Our first course was a delectable chicken breast on focaccia with caramelized onions and garden greens; the chicken breast had been marinated in a vanilla-orange-bourbon sauce for a day. The sandwich was served with a dish of aioli sauce with vanilla and mango. The meal included a small salad of their own farm grown garden greens with feta cheese and caramelized pecans and their special HVC vanilla raspberry balsamic vinaigrette dressing; the salad was absolutely wonderful. The sandwich was also accompanied by crisp chips: taro chips, purple Okinawan sweet potato chips, and yellow sweet potato chips. Our meal ended with HVC vanilla ice cream; I selected just the plain vanilla ice cream, but many of the guests chose to have lilikoi (passion fruit) or chocolate sauce on their ice cream.

After the lunch we viewed a short video produced for public television by America’s Heartland about the Hawaiian Vanilla Company vineyard and their vanilla. Dave then walked us down to their “greenhouses” to view the vanilla plants. We were not able to see any plants with vanilla beans on them. According to Dave, disease hit about 60% of their plants two years ago and the owner, Jim Reddekopp, decided to destroy the entire crop to prevent a spread of the disease. Their oldest plants are now 3 years old and it will be another year before their vines will produce orchids, which can then be hand pollinated and result in the growth of vanilla beans. The vanilla beans will have to mature on the vines for 9 months and cure for another 9 months before HVC will be able to once again commercially sell their crop.

Aloha,
Gale

Reddekopp Family at the MillGale writes, I was recently in Hawaii and bought a 3-bean bottle from Hawaiian Vanilla Company for $25 and added Absolut vodka to the bottle. I have to tell you that the Hawaiian Vanilla Company beans were absolutely luscious — long (about 8″ long), extremely plump and with a great smell.

Thanks for the report Gale.

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