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Hawaii : Vanilla Company

Hawaiian Vanilla Company is the fancy name of a family-owned farm growing some of the best beans in the world. Besides from being the most amazing perfume ever, vanilla is a great spice, not only because of its flavor but also due to its ability to blend other essences into a balanced concoction.

The Hawaiian Vanilla Co. holds the distinction of being the only commercial vanilla farm in the United States.

Many of you, probably like the smell & soft yet sweet taste in your mouth… But remain ignorant - as I was - of the amazing mystery around it.

Vanilla is the second most expensive spice in the world (after saffron). It is produced by a type of orchid that forms vanilla bean pods and requires careful hand pollination. These orchids bloom only one day per year for 4 hours, when they think they are about to die. So blooming is somehow forced by cutting the water supply to it - not a simple thing considering the humidity and rainfall in Hilo.

While they are green, the leaves, the stems, the pods have a gel - just as aloe - which is extremely poisonous. To make things worse, the water activates the irritative power of the fluid, so trying to rinse it off is not a good idea and swallowing… Can be fatal.

This, together with the scarce blooming & pollination build the myth around Vanilla. How did the Incas discovered that drying the pods would bring out the most amazing essence ever? Vanilla was brought to Europe by Hernan Cortés - yep the Spanish friend of Columbus.

It's also Mr. Cortés who the world should thank for, as he introduced Chocolate along with Vanilla, when he returned to Europe in 1520. Vanilla however, was not properly used until it felt in French hands, that actively mixed & match to create

The Hawaiian Vanilla Company offers great tours that include tasting, farm tours & education, aside from tips and tricks on how to make your own Vanilla Extract (basically, just cut the bean and let it be in vodka for several months) and use it for a special twist in your kitchen's classics.

Vanilla fan, enjoying the local produce.

It was our last day in the Big Island, so after the Vanilla Farm, we drove all the way to the entrance to Waipi'o Valley. Early capital of Hawaii, Royal Residence and filming spot of Waterworld (where the guys finally found ground). It's like promised land, fertile, green and massive. No time for hiking, but here's the shot from the always mesmerizing end of the road.


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