“Here Albius fertilized vanilla.” – Tribute to Edmond Albius, Saint Suzanne, Réunion.
We’re back! After a big move, which required the dismantling and relocation of the trusty recording studio (a.k.a. Diana’s closet), I’m excited to record in my new space!
Next month is the show’s sixth anniversary – I know, right?!! – and I’m asking YOU to submit questions for a special listener Q&A episode. You can contact me right here. Otherwise, send me a question on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter!
After my last episode about potatoes, I figured I’d follow up with a little dessert. Today, let’s learn about one of the most valuable and mysterious plants on earth, the dizzying journey it made from its native homeland to its most famous outpost, and the unlikely character who unlocked its secrets. This plant’s intoxicating flavor is so widely enjoyed, and so universally incorporated into dishes around the world, that its name has become a byword for the everyday and boring. This is extremely unfair, since we’re talking about one of the world’s most labor-intensive and delicate plants, the only edible orchid on earth. That’s right: this week, we’ll learn about the sultry secrets of vanilla.
Episode 69: “The Boy Who Solved Vanilla”
Edmond Albius, the boy who unlocked vanilla
Watch “Edmond’s gesture” in action in this video of vanilla hand-pollination, still used for the production of essentially all commercial vanilla in the world.
See the humble melipona bee, which naturally fertilizes vanilla plants in Mexico.
- Vanilla: Travels in Search of the Ice Cream Orchid, Tim Ecott.
- When Montezuma Met Cortés: The True Story of the Meeting That Changed History, Matthew Restall.
- Jean Gabriel Fouché, Laurent Jouve. Vanilla planifolia: history, botany and culture in Reunion island. Agronomie, EDP Sciences, 1999, 19 (8), pp.689-703. hal-00885962
- Brixius, Dorit. “A Pepper acquiring Nutmeg: Pierre Poivre, The French Spice Quest and the Role of Mediators in Southeast Asia, 1740s to 1770s.” Journal of the Western Society for French History, vol. 43, 2015. http://hdl.handle.net/2027/spo.0642292.0043.006
- Brixius, Dorit. “From Ethnobotany to Emancipation: Slaves, Plant Knowledge, and Gardens on Eighteenth-Century Isle de France.” History of Science, vol. 58, no. 1, Mar. 2020, pp. 51–75, doi:10.1177/0073275319835431.
- Maverick, Lewis A. “Pierre Poivre: Eighteenth Century Explorer of Southeast Asia.” Pacific Historical Review, vol. 10, no. 2, 1941, pp. 165–177. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/3633634. Accessed 23 June 2021.
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