|I NOW PRESENT YOU THE ORIGINAL MAYAN VANILLA
Joining our friends Ginette and Michel Bras last February, we went to Mexico to meet Francisco Van der Hoff, the founder of the first fair trade label, Max Havelaar, and to seek out both the lost hot pepper and the original vanilla. Though I promise to tell you about the first two adventures in future letters, I would really like to share with you here my most vivid recollection.
Following Cortes' arrival on the Mexican continent, all of the vanilla consumed in Europe used to come from Mexico. Though the vanilla orchid was replanted in other territories and managed to grow successfully, it bloomed but never produced beans. After the slave Edmond Albius' discovery of manual pollination on Reunion Island in 1850, the flowers have been pollinated by hand even in Mexico, by locating and separating the anthers from the pollinium enough to release the pollen, and then lifting the rostellum to brush the pollen into the stigma. His explanation of this technique to his master in 1850 made it possible to obtain vanilla in many of the French colonies.
I wanted to find the region in the north of Chiapas where the flowers were left to be pollinated naturally. For a long time, Europeans thought that the Indians harboured a secret, after relinquishing just as they had for cocoa and quinine. In fact, a particular breed of hummingbird in the Chinantle forest was responsible for their pollination. Our most important discovery in this regard was our meeting Elias, a man deeply in love with vanilla who picks these wild pods in the virgin forest. It was he who taught us that the hummingbirds only pollinate the three prettiest flowers on the vine. The pods become quite impressive, are surprisingly concentrated, and have particular vegetal notes of Ylang-Ylang. This remarkable man aids the development of the people in three small villages, where the local producers cultivate the vanillas, and where just like the hummingbirds, they only hand-pollinate the three prettiest flowers on the vine. I have thus received these vanillas like precious treasures, having been convinced before our departure that they had in fact disappeared.
|The black flowers of the Mayan and Aztec Gods:
- "Hummingbird" Vanilla, the Original Vanilla whose flower is pollinated by hummingbirds
- The Grand Vanilla of the Chinantle Forest, which develops from only the three prettiest flowers on the vine
- The Fine Vanilla of the Chinantle Forest
Dream vanillas for your custards and stewed fruit.
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