Fresh vanilla beans inspire new tradition


Vanilla beans grow on orchids.

Vanilla beans grow on orchids, something I didn’t know until a dear friend showed me the budding plants in her yard. Each year she pollinates the orchids by hand using a small paintbrush and hopes for a crop. Last year she collected about two dozen vanilla beans, which she dried on her stove for a few weeks. Then she generously gave me four beans carefully zipped into a plastic bag. I tucked them into my refrigerator until the seemingly right occasion presented itself. Over a year went by, and the beans were still in the baggie.

This past Thanksgiving, my husband and I hosted a family gathering at our new house. It was the first time since our wedding that our families have gotten together. It seemed like the perfect occasion for some homegrown sweetness.

I simmered organic cranberries on low with agave syrup. After they began to pop out of their skins, I stirred in a mixture of diced ginger and those vanilla beans.

What’s so amazing about these beans compared to store bought liquid vanilla is their mind-bending aroma. Smelling these beans is like diving into a bottomless pool of floral caramel, where for a moment everything good is not only possible; it’s all around.

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  1. and the beans were grown with lots of Maui Love and nothing but rain and sunshine! I currently have about 50 beans growing (they take about 9months on the vine) and they look just like the picture. Promise to share more when they are ready!! glad to hear you shared they with your family, during such a lovingly prepared meal.


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