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I am from Mumbai, India, which is located on the coastal region of West India.
I have 3 queries:
1) Is Mumbai suitable enough to grow the BEST quality of Vanilla beans?
2) What is the minimum area suitable to grow Vanilla? Can it be cultivated in a small CONDUCIVE area at home?
3) Is it commercially viable? And, how much does it cost to buy the best quality cuttings to grow in India?
Nishit from Mumbai, India
I'll attempt to answer these one at a time:
1) Two types of vanilla beans-Tahitian and Bourbon-are widely grown for commercial use. Most of the vanilla grown in the world is grown within 20 degrees north or south of the equator. Like other members of the orchid family, vanilla grows best in partial shade in a temperate climate with high amounts of moisture and humidity. Mumbai lies 18.96º north of the equator and has a suitable climate for growing Vanilla.
2) Vanilla plants are creepers. They can be grown in a small amount of space if they are grown on upright supports.
3) Vanilla is commercially viable, but it's a very labor-intensive crop, which is why it's so expensive to grow. It takes three years after planting for the bean plants to flower. They need at least 9 months on the vine to develop and then another several weeks to months to cure properly before fully developing their flavor and scent. Prices on cuttings can vary.
Anuradha Sawant from Mumbai, India
Vanilla beans are widely grown within a 20-degree band on either side of the equator. These are the areas where the plants are easiest to sustain. Most of Southern India has the perfect climate for growing vanilla.
Cured vanilla beans do not work well for growing vanilla plants as chemical changes occur in the beans during the drying process. The best way to grow vanilla is to start plants from cuttings.
The process from a cutting to a finished bean can take several years and is very labor intensive. This is partly because when the beans flower, they need to be hand-fertilized. The flowers for each bean only open for one day and if they are not fertilized, they close and will not open again.
Because there are only 1 or 2 insects in the world (from Mexico, I believe) that even pollinate vanilla flowers, you'll need to watch your plant closely and fertilize it by hand. Also, the plant flowers sporadically so new flowers may appear each day.
Once the plant is mature enough to develop beans, the pods grow fast on the vine but take up to 9 months to fully mature. To capture the best flavor, they need to be harvested at the precise time just as the individual pod splits. After that, they are cured for another 3 months.
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Can we grow vanilla in Phaltan, which is close to Baramati (100 Kms from Pune)? I would also like to know all the details, like duration, how much water is required, etc.