Vanilla is one of the most expensive spices in the world, second only to saffron. It makes sense: like saffron, vanilla comes from a flower, and that flower is infamously difficult to pollinate. Pollination is key: it's what creates the prized vanilla bean, after all. But pollination can only happen when there's a flower, and the vanilla orchid flowers only once a year. Even then, it has proved impossible to pollinate with any automation; instead, the farmer must pollinate each one manually by placing pollen on the end of a sliver of wood and placing it carefully within the flower. (This method, interestingly enough, was discovered by a 12-year-old slave from the Bourbon Islands named Edmond Albius in 1841, and is still the only one used today).
The Story Of Vanilla
Find out how vanilla goes from a flower to a bottle.
How To Pollinate The Vanilla Orchid
Watch just how painstaking the process is.
10 Super Expensive Foods
From truffles to wagyu beef, hear about more delicacies with hefty price tags.
Written by Curiosity Staff October 7, 2016
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