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Broken Nose Vanilla – a real mean bean!
Far North Queensland, Australia

Vanilla beans reviewed: 2 grade A, 6 grade B Australia Planifolia
Cost: Broken Nose Vanilla provided these beans for review.

“Broken Nose Vanilla – a real mean bean!”, how cool is that? This vanilla is grown and then cured on the same farm — a real rarity in the modern vanilla trade that usually uses centralized curing facilities. Fiona first told us about her vanilla plantation about a year ago. At the time they were still anticipating the first beans. As promised, Fiona sent along several vanilla beans from the first harvest.

Australia Planifolia, Grade “A”

Broken Nose Vanilla sent two Grade “A” vanilla beans from their first harvest. The vanilla is flexible and long. The skin is supple and black. One bean is round and packed firm with caviar, the other wide and flatter in shape.

The aroma is sweet and unctuous. Overall, it’s brighter and fruitier than traditional Madagascar-grown planifolia. They smell really fantastic.

Inside, the beans are surprisingly wet with a rich red/brown oil. The caviar is extremely oily, yield is slightly above average for two vanilla beans.

Australia Planifolia, Grade “B”

Broken Nose Vanilla grades beans by length, grade “B” are shorter gourmet vanilla beans, and not extract grade as the name suggests.

Compared to the grade “A” vanilla, these beans are lighter in color and a bit dryer.  They are supple, soft, and flexible.  All the beans are round and plump.

These shorter beans have a beautifully moist and oily interior. Note the beautiful pools of goop and moisture in the bisection images (click any picture to enlarge). Nice yield of caviar for beans this size. The caviar is firm and moldable.

Vanilla is making inroads in Australia, and farm-grown and cured vanilla is still a real rarity anywhere in the world. Congratulations to Broken Nose Vanilla on a fantastic first harvest and cure. I wish them the best of luck for their second and future harvests.

If you have any questions about Australian vanilla, or growing vanilla in Australia, Fiona is generally available to answer questions via e-mail or the comments below.

Here’s some info from Fiona about the plantation:

The property is around 12 acres, mostly hilly, that borders the Russell River and overlooks the Russell River valley towards the mountains. Although only slightly elevated, it is a bit cooler than the rest of the coastal plain – breezes funnel through the valley and the cool air falls off the mountain at night, taking the edge of the tropical summer heat.

The surrounding country grows mostly rainforest, sugar cane and bananas – a palette of greens. We enjoy the ‘dragon breath’ mists that rise from the valley and the mountain rifts in wisps and drifts, and we have wonderful sunsets.

One of the mountain peaks is called Broken Nose – hence our name: Broken Nose Vanilla.

The vanilla (V. planifolia) grows under 50% shade amongst patches of revegetating rainforest (it used to be sugar cane). It grows in pure mulch, supplied from mulching fallen rainforest timber from the recent cyclone (March 2006), and from local council prunings and roadside maintenance etc. The cyclone provided the area with about 10 years worth of mulch!

We can get up to 6metres (=240inches!) of rain a year, so being on hills has its pros and cons – good drainage but we need to be careful of erosion in disturbed areas. We seldom have to irrigate. Temperatures range from around 12degrees C minimum (54deg F) in the dry season (June-October) to 35degrees C (95deg F) in the wet season. Humidity seldom drops below 70% even in the Dry. Summer is usually 90% plus.

We use NO chemicals or fertilisers except the occasional fish emulsion foliar spray once or twice a year to guard against winter fungi on the leaves. We are in the process of organic certification through Biological Farmers Australia.

The first useable crop will be picked in July-Sept 2008, with products available by Christmas.

Check out the full Broken Nose Vanilla plantation gallery. Fiona provided some of the most dramatic and professional vanilla plantation shots I’ve ever seen — beautiful and amazing, check it out!

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Vanilla beans reviewed:”A grade” and “B grade” Australia grown planifolia.
Cost: Daintree Vanilla & Spice sent sample vanilla beans.

Daintree Vanilla and Spice is the first commercial seller of single source, Australian grown vanilla beans. This organic plantation grows and cures vanilla planifolia beans in Australia’s Daintree rainforest. George Gonthier, general manager of Daintree Vanilla & Spice, is an Australian vanilla pioneer.

According to George:

We have been growing vanilla in North Queensland, Australia for 10 years on a large scale in the Daintree rainforest and have been producing beans for about 5 years. We are also working in collaboration with Australian Vanilla Plantation … and building a greenhouse for the University of Western Sydney to do research.

Pollination has just started again, we start off say 1 thousand flowers. That will increase to about 6-8 thousand per day at full swing until end of November.

The pods samples are pure vanilla, no coconut oil or other oil additive. I also process the pods on the property. We pride ourselves as pure and proud to be Australian owned and grown.

If you’re thinking about growing vanilla in Australia, George can supply vanilla vines and advise:

We are not the only growers here in the far north, I know all of them as I sold them the plants. [Don't take] advice from Mexican growers, whose environments are totally different than ours. My family will guide local farmers to be successful, and we have the University of Western Sydney as support…

The beautiful Daintree website includes history of the vanilla plantation, and the family who operates it. Cameron at Daintree sent these pictures of the plantation.

Daintree Vanilla & Spice Australia Vanilla Planifolia — 6-7″/16-17cm ($100 AUD per 250 grams)
A single, beautiful Australian vanilla bean arrived packaged in a plastic tube. Daintree calls this “A Grade”, which I would call Grade A 16-17 cm. This is a gorgeous, single source vanilla bean, grown and cured in the Daintree rainforest in northern Australia.

The vanilla bean is super flexible. It is dark brown to black in color, and is waxy and pliable. The aroma is overwhelmingly creamy and soft.

The caviar is wet and oily, with a few very goopy, sticky areas. Quite heavy and thick caviar, with a beautiful oily shine. Caviar yield is average for a vanilla bean of this size.

Daintree Vanilla & Spice Australia Vanilla Planifolia — under 6″/15cm ($60 AUD per 250 grams)
Twenty-eight brown “B Grade” vanilla beans arrived packed in wax paper and foil. Daintree calls these “B Grade”, but I would call them Grade A 16- cm, because they’re too nice to deem Extract Grade as the name implies. They are round, plump, straight and short. The skin is drier-looking than the A Grade, with a nice waxy finish. Like the longer beans, these weren’t vacuum packed, thus the skin remains waxy, rather than greasy. The vanilla beans are flexible enough to tie in a knot. Their reasonable size and elegant shape make them a beautiful garnish for high-end dishes.

Inside, the vanilla has a creamy aroma that is very nice. Even though the outside appears dry, the caviar is heavy and oily. The beans are surprisingly easy to bisect. They appear hard to cut, but only require one swipe with the knife because they are so moist inside. The caviar texture is luxurious, soft and velvety to the touch. The caviar yield is above-average for such small beans.

Daintree vanilla beans are single source, grown and cured in Australia’s Daintree rainforest. Single source vanilla is a real rarity in the modern vanilla trade that is dominated by central curing houses. If you’re looking for unique, high quality, real Australia grown vanilla, then check out Daintree Vanilla & Spice.

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