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Whats the first thing you think of when you hear Vanilla…By Jim Reddekopp

It’s funny to think back for the first time I heard about vanilla. It had

to be the thought of ice cream is as far back as I can remember.

When I was a kid you would be out on Kawaihai in Hawaii Kai street

playing and you would hear the music of the ice cream truck. We would

have just enough time to run into the house and find loose change and then

run out and stop him before he passed. My favorite, an orange dreamsicle

that was filled with vanilla ice cream.

Then I think back more recently, perhaps twenty years ago when

I heard my in-laws talking about orchids and how vanilla was an

orchid? It seemed so strange that vanilla of all things came from

an orchid. But something that night triggered something in my

brain and woke up the next morning to find out everything there

is to know about this strange vanilla orchid. This was well before

Google and You Tube and what I found was that there wasn’t

much out there in the world that was written about vanilla, why?

I have never been to the spice rack at our local market before

my wife and I got married. But there I was, sent to the grocery

store on an errand to find everything my wife had written on

the list. I had come back a couple of times, saying “I couldn’t

find any” but, had been taught to ask for help. I started to learn

about nutmeg, cinnamon, different peppers, cardamon,  allspice,

coriander and vanilla. I couldn’t believe the price, how could anything

be that expensive?  20 years later of growing vanilla I have come to

learn just about everything there is to know and why it has become the

second most expensive spice after saffron.

When, I first  started to find out where I could by vanilla cuttings it was

really difficult to find. Someone told me the knew someone, who knew

someone else that had some for sale. I never gave up, I was so driven

to find plants that I could start to grow. I really felt determine that

vanilla had potential to grow in Hawaii and that I could raise my family

doing it. The first plants I found came from Liz at the Lyon Arboretum

which is situated in the very back of Manoa Valley on the island of Oahu.

I am not sure of the origin of the vanilla vines that I purchase here but

the selling price was $1. per node (leaf). I bought 73 nodes that day

and took it too our home in Kailua to begin my vanilla journey.

I took the vine and cut it into segments with two nodes which made

about 37 plants. I then cut the bottom node and let it sit for a couple

of days. Using promix at the time and placed the bottom node over a four

inch pot and covered the node I had cut with promix leaving the cut

end of the vine exposed. Then I met someone who would change my life

forever…Mr. Tom Kadooka.


I’ve got more to share in my next blog…where you will meet my sensei

and vanilla’s own Mr. Miyage!

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