Above: Dr. Elias Bassil shows Twyla Leigh the vanilla orchid’s development. Next: Developing vanilla orchid fruit pods (“beans”) in the UF|IFAS TREC Bassil Lab & shadehouse.
[Banner picture and orchid flower views by Vovener de Verlands Edmond, UF|IFAS, TREC Bassil Lab, Homestead, FL]
by Twyla Leigh, firstname.lastname@example.org
Stand down chocolate, vanilla is the most purchased flavor of American ice cream. But where does vanilla flavoring come from? Real vanilla comes from the bean (seed pod) of the vanilla orchid. Yes, orchid! About 80% of the planet’s commercial vanilla is grown in Madagascar. There are over 110 species of vanilla orchids. Some are at home, growing naturally, in Mexico and Florida.
Dr. Alan Chambers and Dr. Elias Bassil are University of Florida scientists at the Tropical Research and Education Center (TREC) in Homestead, Florida who are working to make growing vanilla orchid plants for commercial vanilla bean production a reality in Florida. They are looking at flower structure, pollination and other variables to make such a crop viable for the small farmer. Vanilla planifolia is a flat leaf, climbing species that is traditionally known as yielding vanilla extract from its seed pods.
Among the dozens of species and cultivars of vanilla orchids that have been collected and are being grown and studied at TREC are plants from Southwest Florida (Vanilla pompano ‘Twyla’) donated by the UF/IFAS Extension Collier County Extension Director, Twyla Leigh – a multi- generation orchid enthusiast.
For more info see:
1. Dr. Alan Chamber’s research, click here
2. For Dr. Chamber’s lab website on Mango, Papaya, Passionfruit, Vanilla, Vanilla Growing Guide, Alpine strawberries, click here: tropical fruit breeding
3. And also click here: