Vanilla Valentine

Want to buy your valentine an orchid? Try vanilla! Don’t get me wrong; I’m not suggesting you buy a vanilla plant. As you can see from the healthy specimens at Vallarta Botanical Gardens, these heavy vines are best left to climb up tropical trees or hang in greenhouses.

Vanilla vine growing up a treeLooking up at a Vanilla vine growing up a tree trunkVanilla pompona vine

However, it is easy to buy a gift made with vanilla. As the world’s most delicious orchid, vanilla finds its way into many valentine’s essentials. Cakes, candies, cookies, perfumes, and scented lotions often contain it. Thousands of years ago, the native peoples of Mexico first used it as a flavoring for cooking, especially with chocolate. They created the process to dry and cure the seedpods, and bring out the vanilla beans’ distinct flavor.

Vanilla beansVanilla flowerYoung Vanilla plants under cultivation in Hawaii

Vanilla planifolia is the most common source for the natural flavoring. Shown in the next photo, it has the long, skinny seedpods familiar to cooks. Vanilla pompona is a less common source, native to Central America from Mexico to Panama. Its seedpods in the last 2 photos look like small bananas. Even if you don’t consider yourself much of a cook, it’s easy to use the beans to make vanilla sugar, vanilla brown sugar syrup, or your own vanilla vodka.

Vanilla planifolia seedpodsVanilla pompona seedpods Vanilla pompona seedpod

Vanilla’s tastiness and versatility keep it in the top ranks of valentine gifts. Of course, regular-size orchids with flowers also make excellent presents. Start by checking out these buying tips to find the right Phal, Paph, or Cattleya. You can always have vanilla with your valentine dessert.

Explore posts in the same categories: Botanical Gardens, Buying Tips, Fragrant Orchids, Orchids in the Wild, Photos, Warm Growers

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8 Comments on “Vanilla Valentine”

  1. Eve D Says:

    can’t wait to buy some fresh vanilla beans. I cook with them all the time because I can taste the difference from bottled vanilla. I scrape out the beans and use it to bake. Then the rinds can be used to flavor vodka in the bottle 3 or 4 times but then you have to get more beans. I thinks vanilla needs to be in every kitchen!

  2. Ron F Says:

    great post and great pics! thanks.

  3. AboutOrchids » Blog Archive » Chocolate Valentine Says:

    […] Chocolate’s cultivation and history share close ties with that famous orchid vanilla.[…]

  4. White oaks Says:

    Orchid Show and Festival 2011

    P O E-Pacifica Orchid Extravaganza

    What: Orchid Free For All
    When: March 3-5
    Where: White Oak Orchids
    1204 Linda Mar Blvd.- Unit “A”
    Pacifica, CA 94044-4245

    Hours: Thursday 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
    Friday 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
    Saturday 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM

    Cost: Free entrance & Free Parking (wheelchair access)

    Hundreds of plants and flowers on display to see and learn about! Many climates, habitats, culture and care explained!

    Come be a part of this wonderful natural experience.

    We are 1.25 miles away from the Pacific Ocean. Come visit the Jungle and the Ocean in the same day!

    As always extraordinary Orchids are available!

  5. nancy Says:

    I like the picture looking up the tree. It just zig zags up to the top!

  6. AboutOrchids » Blog Archive » Ouch! Says:

    […] Vallarta Botanical Gardens has orchids, chocolate, and vanilla to enjoy, but it also has a painful side. […]

  7. Alison Fleming Says:

    Very interesting, I Never knew that vanilla is an orchid. Here I’ve been eating orchids all the time. Good article.

  8. AboutOrchids » Blog Archive » Center for Conservation of Amazonian Flora Says:

    […] It has over 1200 native plant species, including 200 orchid species, like Cattleyas, Masdevallias, and Vanillas. […]