Vanilla CO2 Part 1
Vanilla CO2 Part 1
History and Botanical Source.—The plant which produces vanilla bean is an orchid, native of the tropical forests of Mexico, but now grown in many other parts of the globe, as in Brazil, Honduras, Java, Africa, and the West Indies, though only on the island of Guadaloupe on a commercial scale. Vanilla has probably been in use among the Mexicans from times immemorial, as a flavor to their chocolate, and was made known to the western world by the Spaniards. Hernandez, the Spanish historian, describes it under the botanical name Aracus aromaticus, also mentioning its Mexican name, Tlilxochitl. Clusius, in 1602, calls it Lobus oblongus aromaticus. The generic name of the plant was established, in 1752, by Plumier, and the present name of the species yielding the true Mexican vanilla of commerce, by Andrews, in 1808. (As to priority of synonyms, see George M. Beringer, Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1895, p. 611.) While the Index Kewensis enumerates 34 species of vanilla; only very few contribute to the world's supply of the vanillas of commerce—for example, V. planifolia, Andrews (Mexico, also cultivated in Réunion, Java, etc.); V. pompona, Schiede (southeast Mexico, Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Surinam, Cayenne, Guadaloupe, etc.); and V. Gardneri, Rolfe (Brazil) (R. A. Rolfe, Kew Bulletin, 1895, p. 169; see Beringer, loc. cit.).
The conquering Spaniards found vanilla in use as a flavor for cacao among the Aztecs of Mexico, and naturally made this plant known to Europe. It was then described and illustrated by Hernandez
The Totonacs, native to Veracruz, Mexico, grew vanilla in forest plantations in ancient times. In 1425 they were conquered by the Aztecs who demanded vanilla harvests from them. The Aztecs first mixed vanilla with chocolate, in a beverage called chocolatl, which was sometimes spiced with chile peppers.
The Aztec, whose empire was established in what is now Mexico in about A.D. 1100, called ground vanilla beans tlilxochitl which means, black pods. They used vanilla to flavor chocolatl, a drink made from the roasted and ground seeds of the CACAO tree. Vanilla beans were so valued that they were one of the ways in which common people paid tribute to the Aztec emperors. (See also TAX SYSTEMS.)
he first Spaniards to write about Mesoamerica, including Bernal Diaz and Bernardino de Sahagun, described vanilla. The latter, a Fransciscan friar wrote in 1529 that in addition to being used to flavor chocolate drinks, the flavoring was sold in the market places. Although the Spaniards imported vanilla beans to Europe, where they were used to flavor chocolate, which the Spaniards also borrowed from the Aztec, vanilla-processing factories were not established in Europe until the late 1700s. Before this time Europeans did not understand the steps required to make the pods and seeds taste and smell like vanilla. The curing process was kept secret by the indigenous people of what by then had become Veracruz, Mexico.
Hundreds of years ago in the tropical forests of the Aztec kingdom, an ancient group of people discovered the fruit of a delicate orchidand a flavor they called vanilla. The Totonaco people of the Vera Cruz region in Mexico were the first to cultivate the divine vanilla crop. They believed the sweet vanilla nectar to be a gift from the gods with a mythology of a pair of fallen lovers whose sacred blood marked the spot where a vigorous vine and a beautiful flower grew to fill the air with the aroma of true love and beauty.
The vanilla plant is a vine, native from the tropical forests of Central America and some areas of South America. In its natural habitat, it may reach a length of 25 meters, climbing with the help of adventitious roots. The stems are thick and fleshy green; the leaves are alternate, long elliptical, sessile and bright green. The flowers, in clusters, appear in the leaf axils. They live only 8 hours and die if fertilization fails to occur. The plant blooms three years after the cuttings are planted and the yellow greenish fruits many have up to 90,000 seeds, taking five to seven months to mature. The fruit is scentless when harvested, it has a length between 10 to 25 cm and a weight of 5 to 30g (Ferrão, 1993).
Vanilla is a fleshy, herbaceous perennial vine, climbing by means of adventitious roots on trees or other supports. The roots are long, whitish, aerial, about 2mm in diameter and are produced singly opposite the leaves. The roots at the base ramify in the humus or mulch layer. The long, cylindrical, monopodial stem (1-2 cm dia) is simple or branched, succulent and brittle. It is dark green and photosynthetic with stomata. The internodes are 5-15 cm in length. Large, flat, fleshy, subsessile leaves are alternate, oblong-elliptic to lanceolate and are 8-25 cm long and 2-8 cm broad. The veins are numerous, parallel and indistinct. The petiole is short and thick. They are borne toward the top of the vine and are 5-8 cm long with upto 20-30 flowers, opening from the base upwards.
The flowers are large, waxy, fragrant, pale greenish-yellow and are about 10 cm in diameter. Pedicel short, tricarpillary ovary inferior, cylindrical, sepals three, oblong-lanceolate, obtuse to subacute, slightly reflexed at the apex. Two upper petals resemble the sepals in shape. The lower petal is modified as a trumpet-shaped labellum or lip. The tip of the lip is obscurely three-lobed and is irregularly toothed on its revolute margin. Dark coloured papillae form a crest in the median line. The gynostemium is long, hairy on the inner surface, bearing at its tip the single stamen. The concave sticky stigma is separated from the stamen by a thin, flap-like rostellum because of which self pollination is impossible. The fruit is a pendulous, narrowly cylindrical and obscurely three-angled capsule, known as bean. It contains ripe myriads of very minute globose seeds of about 0.3 mm in diameter.
great site for seeing the different dimensions of vanilla growing, harvest and curing
another set of fine images
Vanilla is strictly tropical in its requirements. It thrives well in hot and humid climate, from sea level to an elevation of about 900 m. A temperature range of 10-30oC and an annual rainfall of 150-250 cm are its optimum requirements. It grows well in wwell-drained sandy loams and alluvial and laterite soils having plenty of organic matter. It requires light shade and support for climbing and putting forth satisfactory growth. It is generally propagated through shoot cuttings, planted at a spacing of 2.5 m either way, in pits measuring 45 x 30 x 30 cm.
Vanilla is harvested when the pods are mature and split longitudinally. Fresh beans get the characteristic aroma due to enzymatic action during curing. The enzyme b-glucosidase act on the precursor glucovanillin wwhich result in the harvested beans are subjected to a process of nightly sweating and daily exposure to the sun for about 10 days until they become deep chocolate-brown in colour. Then they are spread on trays in an airy shelter until dry enough for grading. The best grade may be covered with tiny crystals of vanillin. This coating is known as givre.
Vanilla comes from the fruit pods of a large, climbing tropical vine that is a member of the orchid family. The vanilla orchid is the only one of the 35,000 or more species in this family to produce an edible fruit. Although over 50 species of vanilla orchid exist, only three have been used commercially: Vanilla planifolia, Vanilla tahitensis, and Vanilla pompona.
Almost all of the vanilla imported into the U.S. comes from Vanilla planifolia Andrews (also known as Vanilla fragrans (Salisbury) Ames). This species is native to southeastern Mexico, the West Indies, Central America, and the northern part of South America. Mexico, once the hub of vanilla production, now uses its land for other purposes. Today, almost all vanilla beans are grown on islands such as Madagascar and the Indonesian Islands. Extracts of Tahitian vanilla, grown on the French Pacific Islands, have a much different flavor profile than planifolia beans. Although V. pompona is rarely seen today, it has been used in the perfume industry.
Vanilla vines grow best in tropical climates 25 degrees north or south of the equator. Ample rainfall and an even mixture of sun and shade are needed, with no extended droughts or high winds. The vines do best in rich, "humusy" soil on gentle slopes with even drainage.
If left unpruned, the vines may grow as high as the forest canopy, but they will not flower. On vanilla plantations they are pruned and trained downward not only to increase flowering, but to keep the flowers and beans within easy reach of the workers for pollination and harvest.
The vanilla plant is propagated by cuttings that are planted at the base of supporting "mother" trees. The plants will not bear fruit or flowers until the third or fourth year, with maximum yields after seven or eight years. The vines are abandoned at 10 to 12 years old when they are no longer commercially productive.
It may take up to six weeks for a bud to turn into a flower. Although one vine may produce as many as 1,000 orchid blossoms, only 5% to 30% will be selected for hand-pollination. The orchids flower in the morning, wilt by early afternoon, and drop to the ground by early evening if not fertilized.
The pods mature seven to nine months after pollination. A green vanilla bean resembles a large green bean filled with thousands of tiny seeds. Ideally the beans would be picked before they fully ripen, when only the blossom-end tips are pale yellow. Then the beans undergo a long, complex curing and drying process which develops their distinctive flavor character.
Both the vanilla orchid and the ripe vanilla bean lack aroma. It is only during the curing process that glucovanillin, a vanillin precursor formed during the ripening of the vanilla fruit, is enzymatically converted to glucose and vanillin. The longer a bean vine-ripens, the more concentrated the vanillin and other flavor compounds are after curing. Higher vanillin indicates higher bean quality, which impacts the beans' market value. Beans left on the vine split and decrease in quality. Curing should begin within a week after harvest.
The Mexicans developed the original, labor-intensive, five- to six-month process for curing green vanilla beans. The "Bourbon" process, named for the original designation of the island of Reunion, is a result of slight modifications made by the French. This method, which takes about four to six months, is currently practiced in Madagascar, Comoros, and Reunion. Indonesian beans were originally picked while they were still immature to avoid theft. Although their curing process takes from several weeks to two months, the Indonesians have begun to adopt Bourbon growing and curing practices to increase their bean quality.
The curing process varies among growing regions and many bean curers use a combination of techniques, yet all curing methods involve four phases that directly affect the amount of vanillin and other flavor components in the beans:
• Wilting or killing of the beans stops their respiration. Heat is applied to the pods either by letting them sun-dry, as in the traditional Mexican method, or by submersing them in hot water for several minutes, as in the Bourbon process.
• Sweating the wilted beans involves rapid dehydration and slow fermentation to develop key flavor components. The beans are alternately sun-dried during the day and wrapped in boxes at night for several weeks until the beans acquire a deep chocolate-brown color.
• Drying the beans very slowly at low temperatures results in a final moisture level of about 20% to 25%. Over-drying or rapid drying reduces flavor quality. In the past, Indonesians used wood fires to accelerate the drying process, which causes the beans to develop a smoky aroma and flavor.
• Conditioning is an aging process necessary for flavor development that involves placing the dried beans into closed boxes for several months.
Sweet, aromatic and pleasant. For other sweet spices, Vanilla from Réunion and Madagascar (Bourbon type) is characterized by the most intensive, balanced and somewhat “dark” flavour; lesser priced is Mexican vanilla, with its softer and fresher aroma.
Tahiti vanilla, rarely available, stems from a closely related species (Vanilla tahitensis, thought to be a hybrid of V. planifolia and V. pompona); it has a more floral vanilla fragrance that stands apart from the other types. It is often regarded as inferior, but unusual might be the better word.
The fermented fruit contains about 2% vanillin, depending on provenience (México 1.75%, Sri Lanka 1.5%, Indonesia 2.75%); in vanilla pods of exceptionally good quality, the crystallized vanillin may be visible on the surface in the form of tiny white needles (called givre, the French word for “frost”).
Besides vanillin (85% of total volatiles), other important aroma components are p-hydroxybenzaldehyd (up to 9%) and p-hydroxybenzyl methyl ether (1%). Even trace components do significantly improve the flavour; about 130 more compounds have been identified in vanilla extract (phenoles, phenol ether, alcohols, carbonyl compounds, acids, ester, lactones, aliphatic and aromatic carbon hydrates and heterocyclic compounds). Two stereoisomeric vitispiranes (2,10,10-trimethyl-1,6- and methylidene-1-oxaspiro(4,5)dec-7-ene), although only occurring in traces, also influence the aroma.
The quite different fragrance of Tahiti vanilla is due to its additional contents of piperonal (heliotropin, 3,4-dioxymethylenbenzaldehyd) and diacetyl (butandione). Vanillin content is about 1.7%.
Vanilla additionally contains 25% of sugars, 15% fat, 15 to 30% cellulose and 6% minerals. Water content is unusually high (35%).
Vanilla Traditional Uses
Vanilla is native to Central America and has a long record of pre-Comlumbian usage. Both the Mayas and, later, the Aztecs used Vanilla to flavour a special drink prepared from water, cocoa beans and spices: chacau haa (or chocol haa) in the Mayan and cacahuatl in the Aztec tongue (Náhuatl).
Mayan chocolate, as is still drunk in southern México (Yucatán), Guatemala and Belize, is often spicy, containing and other native or imported.
spices. Sweeteners (sugar or honey) are possible but in no way mandatory. The drink is enjoyed hot or cold, but in any case it is whipped such that it becomes foamy; the foam is considered the most delicious part.
The Aztecs drank chocolate mostly cold, and often used honey to get a sweet product; in our days, of course, cane sugar is more common. Aztec chocolate may contain all aromatics mentioned in the previous paragraph, and more (e.g., paprika and Mexican pepper leaves)
for cultic purposes, the deeply red colour brought by addition of annattowas highly esteemed. When Hernán Cortés forced the Aztec ruler Moctezuma to grant him an audience on November 14th, 1519, he was the first European to try chocolate; less than three years later, the great Aztec capital Tenochtitlán had been shattered to pieces, and the Aztec empire had ceased to exist.
Vanilla was first used in Europe mainly for the same purpose as in America before: To flavour drinking chocolate, a very popular drink among the 17.th century European nobility. European drinking chocolate was almost exclusively sweet and might use a lot of additional flavourings, e.g.
anise,cinnamon but also exotic animal products like musk and ambergris; the main European contributions to chocolate was, however, the use of milk instead of water, which culminated much later, at the end of the 19.th century, in the production of milk chocolate bars.