The black flower charms all the way to Europe where Louis the 14th,
who became crazy about it,
tried to cultivate it on Bourbon island.
and botany
Aztecs called it the black flower, this vanilla creeper made of the blood of princess Tzacopontziza assassinated during her escape with her prince. They used it to sweeten their kings and warriors’ cocoa drinks served in gold cups. Discovered by the conquistador Hernan Cortès during the 16th century, Mexican vanilla fascinated the Europeans courts with its sweet fragrance.

At this time, vanilla is exclusively cultivated in Mexico, even though there were many attempts to implant the flower on other grounds. Louis the 14th, who succumbed to the charm of the spice, tried to cultivate it on Bourbon island (today Reunion), without succeeding.
It is only in the 19th century, after years of unsuccessful attempts, that is discovered the fact that the fecundation of this orchid depends on a bee species, the Melipona bee, living only in Mexico and that the vanilla’s male and female organs are separated by a membrane. A young slave from Bourbon island, Edmond Albius, discovers how to replace the bee by fertilizing each flower by hand with a lemon tree thorn, to put in contact the most beautiful flowers’ pollen and pistil. Still today it is the only way to fertilize the flower in the countries in which the bee does not live. Early in the morning, before the new flowers bloomed during the night dry because of the heat, men and women delicately manipulate each flower with a lemon tree thorn to let the pods which will be producing the vanilla appear.
Once the flower is fertilized, the pod starts to form and arrives at maturity ten months later, going from yellow to black when the vanillin is forming, during the last few days. The vanilla fragrance, absent until now, becomes heady and fills the air around the plant.

For the vanilla to go from odourless plant to fragrant dried pod sought-after by all gourmands, a few steps are necessary. This meticulous savoir-faire, inherited from ancestral Mexican traditions starts with a sudden chock killing the pod, picked yellow, usually with a bath in a 63°C water.
Right after, the pods are placed in a woollen blanket during fourteen hours during which their water dries out and they get that dark colour. The pods then dry, between two and six weeks, first in an oven then in the sun, and finally, in the shadow. Then comes the maturing, eight months during which the pods are safely kept in trunks where they develop their aromas. Each day, the potential rotten pods are removed by hand so they do not contaminate the whole trunk.
vanilla creepers before blooming
History and botany
vanilla creepers before blooming@vanilla patches@vanilla flower