Mexican Vanilla Beans
Mexico has always had the reputation for the best vanilla, but it is much more difficult and expensive to produce the highest quality vanilla crops. Vanilla is native to the Latin American isthmus, where it has been cultivated and used as both flavoring and currency for centuries. Although vanilla beans are grown in several locations today, until the 1800’s Mexico maintained a monopoly on vanilla beans in spite of the fact that explorers constantly uprooted the orchid vines to replant in their native lands. Botanists finally came to realize that the melipone bees, native only to Mexico, were pollinating the flowers. Eventually, a man on the island of Reunion discovered that the pointed stick of a bamboo shoot could be used to hand-pollinate the flowers. Once this was discovered, the French planted vanilla on many of the tropical islands they ruled. To this day, former French colonies within about 25 degrees of the equator (which enjoy warm, tropical climates) produce about 80% of the world’s vanilla.