Did you know ...
- Vanilla is the delicous marrow found inside dried beans ceming from a special orchid
- Vanilla is the only fruit-bearing orchid out of the hundreds of orchid species.
- Native to Central and South America, vanilla was treasured as both a foodstuff and as currency.
- It was discovered by the Spanish conquistadors and taken back to Europe during the Age of Exploration, where especially the French, quickly developed a taste for it.
- Vanilla was used by the wealthy in traditional New World beverages, and increasingly as a flavoring for pastry.
- The French loved it so much they bought plant cuttings from the Spanish in South America and transplanted them to their colonies at Madagascar and French Polynesia. When the transplanted vines failed to produce fruit, the French and Spanish nearly came to blows. Finally it was discovered that the little melipone bee was pollinating vines in the Americas, but nothing was pollinating transplanted vines.
- Even today, vines outside of Central America have to be carefully hand-pollinated by lightly touching each blossom with a stick during the brief time it's open.