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Technical guide

Ingredients 2 pods in a glass tube.
Origin Vanuatu
Net weight 6 g (2gousses)
Conservation / Utilisation In a glass tube or an airtight jug put away in a cupboard.
Price incl. tax €13.80

A graceful, radiant vanilla, Vanuatu is ideal for crème brûlées and custards in addition to tangy sauces for fish. A large number of the pods are slit along the bottom, which is both evidence of their having been harvested at full ripeness, and assurance of a maximum concentration of flavour.

The words of Olivier Roellinger

Vanuata vanilla has a very floral scent, characteristic of a planifolia cultivated on the Melanesian archipelago.
Having grown up in Saint-Malo, I appreciate the fact that the famous navigator Louis Antoine de Bougainville once set sail from my hometown, after which he encountered the islands of Vanuatu in 1768 and called them the “Great Cyclades”. Due to its hints of ylang-ylang, Vanuata vanilla can be used sparingly in vinaigrette or in a tangy fish or shellfish sauce.

Botanical notes

This vanilla is part of the Vanilla planifolia (syn. V. fragrans) family. Three main varieties of commercially-used vanilla are V. pompona, V. planifolia and V. tahitensis. The Vanilla genus belongs to the Orchid family, a taxon boasting more than sixty different varieties, most of which are wild subspecies endemic to Mexico.
Vanilla as we know it is part of a creeping air plant with hermaphrodite flowers. Its heavy pollen used to be dispersed naturally by a hummingbird native to the forests of Southern Mexico. Now, the hands of men, and even more commonly, women, pollinate the flowers by lifting a separating membrane called the rostellum, and bringing together the stigma and the pollen. About nine months later, a green vanilla pod with glints of golden yellow matures and is ready for hand-picking.


Before 1850, all the vanilla in the world came from Mexico, and France was already the primary importer of this “black flower”. The Aztecs, and before them the Mayas, had long since mastered the ripening process, believing that that the scent of vanilla could connect them to the gods. In 1521, the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés brought the first vanilla pod back to Europe, to the court of the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V. It then arrived in France for the first time in 1664 and Louis XIV was ravished by its lush flavour. The French king decided that vanilla plants would thereafter be cultivated on the colony of La Réunion—then called Île Bourbon. The vines grew very well there, and they bloomed, but no pods would develop. After many attempts, the French abandoned their endeavour, persuaded that the Totonac Indians had kept a secret.
It was only in 1850 that the mystery was solved: a slave child called Edmond Albius discovered how to pollinate the flowers on the vanilla vine, thanks to the thorn of a wild citrus. Legend has it that Edmond Albius was subsequently granted freedom.
Following this discovery, vanilla cultivation expanded rapidly throughout French colonies in addition to other regions under French influence: Île Bourbon, Madagascar, Polynesia—and even in Mexico itself, such as in Papantla, near Veracruz. The curing process differs from one region of production to another.
In the Indian Ocean, the ripening process follows a method established by Ernest Loupy in 1851. The pods are first wilted by scalding them in hot water, then are drained and kept in a sweating box for twenty-four hours. For the next three weeks, the pods are laid out in the sun before being brought inside, covered by blankets that retain the heat and prime their curing. Later, they are spread out on racks in a well-ventilated wooden house for six months, where they finally achieve their desired suppleness in the hands of female workers. Finally, they are sorted, graded, and stored in white iron boxes.
In the New World, the flowers are pollinated by women. The vanilla pods are picked at their peak of maturity and spend a week being cared for. The pods are then wrapped in large leaves or in bags and heated in the sun for one or two days. At night, they are gathered again and put away in large wooden boxes where the fermentation process begins.
For three weeks, the vanilla pods are spread out on mats under the sun for several hours each morning, before being put in the shade, where the sublime flavour of vanilla is left to bloom. The cured pods are regularly removed from the batch, graded and packaged.
France, a nation of both seafarers and farmers, has spread the culture of vanilla throughout the world. In so doing, France is veritably the adoptive parent of vanilla.