Vanilla bean houseplant

#gondwana gondwana at
Mon Aug 18 07:45:45 EST 1997

Bill Hintz wrote:
> I want information on the vanilla bean as a house plant and how viable
> the bean is?

Vanilla bean, as you call it, is not a bean at all. It is a vining
terrestrial (sometimes establishing roots on supports) orchid (Genus
vanilla, with 2 or three spcies being most used for Vanilla production,
other species exist, though) with exacting temperature and humidity
requirements. Minimum temperature should seldom fall below 60 degrees F
or 16 degrees C. If it must fall below that, the plant should be kept on
the dry side it should never go beyond 55 degrees. Potting medium should
be a fine bark, perlite mix that should never completely dry up, but
should never be soggy or drain poorly. Provide supports for the vine to
climb, alonmg the lines of philodendron. Do not allow the humidity to
fall below 65% of the plant may decline, sulk or even dry out (depending
on how low you let the humoidity fall). NEVER put it on top of a TV set
or such. The dry heat from the appliance will kill it. Some people have
told me that vanilla does best in an environment in excess of 85%
humidity. Air movement from a fan is important. The key words are:
moist, warm, and bouoyant (air-movement at/from below).

It can take a plant a few years to have enough critical mass to flower,
depending on the size you start off with and how good your culture is.
The flowers last only 24 hours, and have to be hand pollinated to
produce the seed pod, as the natural pollinator does not exist in the
US. If you do not hand pollinate, the flowers drop without pod

I'm not sure how long after pollination the bean is ready for harvest,
but after harvest, I believe there is a roasting or aging or browning
process or something like that. After that, your cookbook can tell you
how to make vanilla essence (you take DRINKABLE (rubbing alcohol is NOT drink it!) distilled spirits, vodka or something like
that, put the beans in a sealable jar, pour the spirits into the jar,
seal it, and over time the vanilla releases its essence into the alcohol
and this flavored alcohol is what you use to flavor foods with it.

An alternate approach to vanilla flavor extraction is you get a jar full
of processed sugar (the other less processed sugars may have their own
unique flavors which you may not want to accompany the vanilla taste),
and stick a few vanilla beans in there. Over time the seed pods release
their essence into the sugar. I'm not sure if you have to periodically
shake the jar to keep the sugar evenly flavored, and I don't know how
long the process takes.

What do you mean by "how viable the bean is?" Did I answer your

David D.

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