The flavourful story of Vanilla

All of this quarantine cooking and baking has been a boon for at least one business you probably had not considered: vanilla. It’s a key ingredient in cakes and cookies (not to mention ice cream and even Coca-Cola). In recent months, worldwide vanilla sales have doubled.

Which gives new relevance to a story correspondent Seth Doane was working on even before the pandemic, one that took him on a journey thousands of miles away to the rainforests of Madagascar, the remote African island nation where a pale white orchid has a most colorful story.

Josephine Lochhead is not only an admirer of the plant, but she runs Cook Flavoring Company, her family business in California which has been making vanilla extract for more than 100 years.

“It makes my heart swoon!” she said of the plant. “I love vanilla!”

This spring, Cook’s saw an astounding 500-precent increase in sales. They import, literally, tons of the raw material.

Growing and harvesting vanilla is incredibly labor-intensive. Each one of the vanilla orchid’s blossoms must be pollinated by hand, before noon, the day it blooms. “We call it the ‘queen of the rainforest,’” Lochhead said.

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