Botanist's Glossary

Vanilla - Vanilla planifolia

  • Description
    • Vanilla, or the vanilla plant (Orchidaceae family) is an orchid vine with clusters of greenish flowers that is native to the damp tropical forests of Eastern Mexico. Its fertilization requires human intervention if it is to be cultivated away rom its area of origin. The vanilla fruit, the pod, must be picked when it starts to mature, or it would burst and lose its seeds. At this stage, the pod is odorless. It takes months of preparation to produce the traditional vanilla stick.
  • Traditions
    • The Aztecs used vanilla pods to perfume a cocoa drink. It was brought to Europe by the Spanish in the 16th century, and reached the Indian Ocean in the 19th century. Towards 1840, in Réunion island, vanilla pods were obtained using artificial pollination.
  • Properties
    • The absolute used for its sensual, delicate and natural scent is extracted from the vanilla. It promotes a feeling of well-being and relaxation.