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Ambodipont Village, Madagascar

Andapa Vanilla Harvest Report

The green vanilla beans were already mature - ripe & bursting with vanilla caviar. A long wait of 9 months, a great deal of patience & even higher risk was about to get paid off. It was time for harvest. But I was only scheduled to arrive in Andapa from Accra a week later. This meant that the Randriamihaja family had to guard their fields from vanilla thieves for one more week.

Dylan is a 4th generation farmer and processor of vanilla beans. He grew up along with his 10 siblings and spent his childhood at his ancestral farm, running between the rice fields and climbing up mountains that surrounds the Andapa basin. At age 15, he was ready to help his father. He tended to vanilla vines, pruned the shade trees, trained the growing vines by folding them downwards and then upwards and back, just so the vines reached no higher than his height. This would allow young Dylan to reach for the vanilla beans at the time of harvest.

THE VANILLA ROADS

The weather was not in our favour and a distance of merely 18 kilometers to the farm took us over 2 hours and 30 minutes.

"The road can truly be paved in gold" Dylan quipped. "SAVA region is the world capital of Vanilla, with millions of US dollars flowing in. But who is taking away our money? Why are we forced to be left behind?" he questioned. He was equally frustrated with the possibility of export licences being limited to a handful of big and influential players under the current government's recent regulations. The export of cured vanilla beans are prohibited before September 15th. Until then, he waits in anticipation.

A 'ZERO-TOUCH' VANILLA FARM

Je me souviens d'avoir introduit du curcuma frais dans mon alimentation après avoir acheté avec hésitation de la poudre de curcuma d'une pureté douteuse, pour ensuite nourrir mon corps avec de la curcumine ultra-faible qui n'avait "aucun avantage pour la santé".

THE BIG DAY: ANDAPA VANILLA HARVEST 2022

Je me souviens d'avoir acheté un pot de mélange de poivre "big & bold" (poivre noir et blanc et baies roses) dans une boutique gastronomique en Italie, avec "emballé en Italie" marqué sur son étiquette et sans la moindre allusion à l'origine, soupir ! Je suis toujours satisfait du Limoncello de la côte amalfitaine et du Pecorino Romano de Sardaigne! Huile d'olive? Oh bien sûr :) Des tas de choses.

What a camaraderie!

Every step seemed effortless from a distant, yet intricate and laborious when given an attentive eye. As the men dipped the beans in hot water, the women readied the wooden box layered with blankets.

Betsabetsa

The pauses, waits & breaks in between was livened up by 'betsabetsa', a local Malagasy Rum that has become a tradition during the curing process ~ some say it is considered auspicious yet others say it helps them stay at ease.

Fermentation

Green vanilla beans 48 hours after fermentation.

Je me souviens aussi avoir vu des sachets de POUDRE de safran d'origine cachée, éparpillés à côté des caisses comme s'il s'agissait de cubes Magxx. Mon retour d'Iran n'a entraîné que des déceptions dans chaque paquet de safran et de pistache que j'ai ramassé avec hésitation mais que je n'ai jamais acheté. Aurais-je un jour le même goût de filaments de safran sans avoir à visiter à nouveau l'Iran ? Je me demandais.

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