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!