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  • nafsiafricaacro
    Adequate manure and rainfall are required. Enough warmth is also a pre-requisite.If the vines are are two metres long when planting, they should flower between
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 7, 2007
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      Adequate manure and rainfall are required. Enough warmth is also a
      pre-requisite.If the vines are are two metres long when planting,
      they should flower between 18-24 months. The minimum length of the
      vine must be 39 inches.
      Date to shortage of vines, most farmers in this region (NYERI)
      planted the minimum length; these will take between two and a half to
      three and a half years to mature.
      Despite the labour, the results, some aromatic brown pods and amber
      coloured liquid make good returns for the famer.Its products are used
      in food flavouring, perfumes, as a medicinal herb, a healing aromatic
      and as an aphrodisiac.
      There are at least 150 species of vanilla indigenous to tropical
      regions. However, despite the high number of vanilla species, there
      are only two members of the family that have been of commercial use.
      The two are Vaanilla planifolia also known as V-fragrans. The other
      is Vanilla pompona schiede. A third edible species known as Vanilla
      tahitensis is believed to have oriented by crossing planifolia with
      pompona stock in a laboratory in Manila, Phillipines in the 1700s.

      Farmers from nyeri regions are cultivating Vanilla planifolia.
      Vanilla plants produce inflorescences on the small stem like growths
      known as racenes where the flower forms. They grow upwards towards
      the light. Usually, only one flower blooms at a time on each recene
      each day. But occasionally two flowers may blossom on the same day.
      The blooming period ranges from 6 weeks to 2 months.
      The flowers bloom very early in the morning, begin to wilt by mid
      morning and die by mid afternoon unless they are
      pollinated.Pollination has to be manually done to ensure
      fertilization. It has to be done early in the morning before the
      flower begins to wilt.
      Upon pollination, the ovary begins to swell. Within six weeks, the
      fruit which resembles a green bean, grows to its full length.
      However, it must remain on the vine for between 6-9 months depending
      on the region it grows. In cases of upper areas of Iria-ini location
      where the area is very cold, farmers might have to wait for the nine
      full months.
      The cell walls of vanilla fruits are among the strangest of all forms
      life, they are more of a matrix than cell. Extensive studies by plant
      scientists in over 200 years have failed to define how vanillin – the
      sought out chemical extract is produced in the plant. Vanillin
      contains 25 per cent of flowers fragrance. As a matter of fact, no
      one has ever defined how many organic compounds make up vanilla
      flavour and fragrance profile, though it is estimated that there are
      between 300-500 compounds that create it's complex essence.
      Vanilla is cultivated by planting cuttings known as vines much like
      sweet potatoes. The vine to be planted has to be six feet in length.
      About one and a half feet of this has to be buried horizontally in
      the soil at a depth of three inches.
      The remaining part has to be supported by a stake. The stake can
      range from live plants, metal grating or other perennial crops
      including coffee or orange trees.
      Mr Wachira cites a case where Mexican farmers, having their US market
      flooded with Brazilian oranges, they turned to vanilla and trained it
      on the orange trees. He further cites Hawaiian farmers who train
      their vines on metal scaffolding in their green houses.

      Vanilla has to be planted under shade as the beans never require
      direct sunlight. A banana glove is recommended as it forms an ideal
      canopy. Nitrogen fixing trees like calliandra, leucaena and others
      can be incorporated to help in nitrogen fixation.
      When harvest time approaches, the field needs to be visited daily and
      the beans checked. The beans have to be harvested before they are
      completely ripe. Up to this time they are completely ripe. Up to time
      they have neither aroma nor taste. It takes between 6 and 9 months
      for the beans to complete the curing and drying process by which time
      they acquire and develop the unique characteristics that define it's
      world re-known flavour and fragrance.
      During the curing and drying period, the beans will be cooked in near
      boiling water, wrapped in clothes and stored in boxes for days,
      massaged, laid in the each evening. This time the beans will lose as
      much as 80 per cent of their original weight. (1 Kg= 38-45 green
      beans and 1 plant will produce 3-10 kg beans). By this time, it has a
      powerful and enticing fragrance. The frangrance, enticing as it may,
      is incidentally repellent to insects and pests.
      Finally, when beans are deemed ready, they will rest on wooded
      shelves to up to another three months for conditioning. After this,
      they are ready for packaging and subsequent shipping to the market.

      (story written through information from the Hands of hope, and Waikwa
      Wachira of horizon@nation. co.ke)

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