Edited 11 May 2007
copy@ Nina Rach
Stamp issued 12 March 2002 as part of the Spices of Fiji set of 4 stamps by
Vanilla: Vanilla fragrans, Orchidaceae.
Native to Mexico, vanilla is now cultivated in Madagascar, Reunion, Indonesia, Uganda and Tonga, as well as Fiji. Tahiti cultivates a different species. Flowers come in clusters, and as each flower blooms, it must be pollinated that morning or it will fall in disuse. Pollination in all cases is done very swiftly by hand over four months of the year, usually September through December and the vanilla "beans" ripen some nine months later. Sun-curing and "sweating", wrapped in blankets, bring out the bouquet and flavour, a process of several months. Almost all the crop is sold in Fiji's own retail packets, in "added-value" form to discriminating buyers. The very best beans are saved for making organic vanilla liquid extract that has achieved a world reputation. Consumers are being converted away from using the synthetic chemical extract that is made from coal-tar products. As a member of the orchid family, vanilla was a natural for Fiji, which already has some 23 species of wild orchids in its native flora."