This Is What Vanilla Bean Farming Looks Like

Nathan Wild

This is What Vanilla Bean Farming Looks Like

When you think of vanilla, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Ice cream? Cake? Cookies? Vanilla is undoubtedly one of the most beloved flavours in our culture. It’s also one of the world’s most expensive ingredients, and so you only ever see it in an extract. Rarely does an average person use a whole vanilla bean.

Because we hardly ever see vanilla beans it’s easy to forget that it’s a crop that is grown by farmers. We use vanilla regularly in our baking and I’ve often wondered how vanilla beans are grown. I then came across this fascinating video by Business Insider all about vanilla bean farmers in Madagascar.

Madagascar produces 80% of the world's supply of vanilla bean. Vanilla beans are produced by vanilla orchids which bloom only one day per year. And since vanilla isn’t native to Madagascar, the only insect that can pollinate it, the Orchid Bee, doesn’t exist there. This means that every single orchid has to be hand pollinated by farmers!

I always love learning about where our food comes from and how it’s grown. Farmers are a hard working and ingenious bunch. We all enjoy the fruits (desserts?) of their labour and it’s all too easy to forget about the people who create these magnificent ingredients. Our desserts would simply not be as good without vanilla bean farmers! So next time you’re enjoying a vanilla dessert, send out a silent “thank you” to all of the vanilla bean farmers out there.