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Vanilla: A smell that costs a lot of labor

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2021-11-24 11:07:12


Vanilla: A smell that costs a lot of labor

        Vanilla is a family of orchids that originates from Mexico. Vanilla pods are used for flavoring in many industries such as food, desserts, ice cream and even perfume.

        The Aztec civilization used vanilla to decorate the scent of the drink in rituals before spreading and gaining popularity to Europe. There is an attempt to cultivate vanilla in Europe but was not successful in fruiting. Then it was discovered that vanilla plants in Mexico were only pollinated by local bees. The commercial cultivation of vanilla pods had to be done only in South America.

        Later, a method was invented by human beings. This method increases vanilla production, but at the cost of a lot of labor make vanilla pods an expensive commodity. Over 80% of vanilla production is now grown on the island of Madagascar, where climate is favorable and labor is cheap. But when most of the planting and distribution occurred in one place. This always causes price volatility, especially when Madagascar is experiencing natural disasters.

        For price reasons therefore, synthetic vanilla originated many centuries ago. From beaver's scent glands to petroleum products but the demand for natural vanilla is always high, because of its sweet, irresistible aroma.

Translated and compiled from: https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/where-is-vanilla-grown