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Real, organic Vanilla makes the best Icecream

Most people associate vanilla icecream with being the "Plain Jane" flavour, however that is because most Vanilla Icecream is made with fake Vanilla. Real Vanilla actually has one of the most complex flavours on earth.

Vanilla BeansThese beens are ready for use, and packed with flavour

At Floravilla we only use real organic vanilla in our icecreams, and it all comes from Russel and Teresa's farm, just down the road.

We recently spent some time with Russel and Teresa at their organic vanilla plantation in the Daintree Rainforest to see how this interesting plant is grown, and why it is the second most expensive food ingredient (second only to Saffron).

If you are interested in how most commercial vanilla is produced, have a look at the Wikipedia entry for Guaiacol (be prepared for a chemistry lesson).

One of the reasons for the high price of real vanilla, is the huge amount of time and labour that goes into growing, pollinating, and finally curing the beans.

Vanilla FlowersVanilla Flowers must be hand pollinated daily to produce fruit

The Vanilla beans are the fruit from the orchid, Vanilla planifolia, which is native to Mexico. The flowers can be naturally pollinated only by bees of the Melipona genus found in Mexico, which means in Australa, they have to be hand pollinated. The flowers are only open in the morning, and will be dropped the next day if not pollinated. This means every morning, the plants need to be searched for new flowers and pollinated manually.

Russel and Theresa grow their vanilla plants under existing fruit trees for protection. It creates a wonderful ambiance to the plantation, rather than the sterile surrounds of a greenhouse.

Vanilla VinesThe Vanilla is grown under an existing fruit tree plantation to provide shade and shelter

Also the pristine environment of the Daintree Rainforest creates a perfect climate, with clean air, water and soil for the beans to reach their potential.

The beans must then be picked by hand before heading into the next stage of development. When picked they are green, and odourless, they only develop their aroma and flavour after a time consuming process, of first killing the beans (heat is used to stop the growth of the bean). They are then "sweated" and dried over many months. Over this time the natural development of Vanillan and many complex chemicals happens. This is what gives the complexity to the final flavour.

Teresa has developed a unique method of "sweating" and storing the beans to ensure they maximise their full flavour.

If you are interested in obtaining beans, they can be purchased directly from the farm, just look for the sign on the corner of Cape Tribulation Rd and Mahogany Drive, in Cow Bay... just past the Floravilla Icecream Factory.