The King of Food Perfume 

- Vanilla (Vanilla planifolia Andr.)

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When various slobber high-rank foodstuffs are mentioned, many people many fall into inebriation of their strong aroma. However, do they know where the aroma comes from? Let us start from vanilla.

Vanilla originates from the tropical rain forests in Madagascar of Africa, and it was not discovered and used until the 18th century. It has many other names and is a typical large-sized orchid plant in the rain forests. According to scientific analysis, vanilla contains more than 150-170 kinds of elements such as vanillin, carbide, ester, hydroxybenzene, and heterohyclic compounds etc. Since it has special aromas, vanillin is used as the concocting materials for high-rank cigarettes, wines, coffee, and chocolate etc. Nowadays, it has become a kind of natural eligible perfume most loved by Chinese consumers; therefore, it enjoys the reputation of the “king of all perfumes”. In China, vanilla is listed as number one of the five kinds of orchids of vanilla, Mizai orchid (Chinese name), Ylang (Cananga odorata) , White jade orchid (Michelia alba), and Yellow jade orchid (Michelia champaca Linn).

There are more than 100 vanilla species and over 800 varieties of vanillas in all over the world, but only three species have values of planting. The vanilla with the best quality and most widely planted is the Mexican vanilla. It usually begins to blossom out and produce fruits within 2.5 -- 3 years of plantation. It will enter its most fertile period in the 6th or 7th years with an economic life span of about 10 years. At present, the major producing areas of vanillas in the world mainly are Madagascar, Indonesia, Comorin, Uganda, Mexico, and Tahiti Isles etc. It was reported that the total vanilla output of the world in 1982-1983 was 900-950 tons, of which Madagascar accounted for 800 tons. As the economic prosperity and the improvement of the living conditions, the demand for vanillas keeps exceeding the supply, and its price also rises up sharply. On the American market, the price for each kilogram of vanilla fruit legumen reaches as high as 90 USD, and the price is expected to rise again. 

The vanillas of China were transplanted from Indonesia in 1960, and Fujian Sub-tropical Botanical Research Institute achieved success in indoor vanilla trial planting. Since vanilla is a necessary spice for making high-rank foodstuffs and it is very expensive, China has listed its plantation as a major problem-tackling project. Nowadays, vanillas have been transplanted to Yunnan, Guangxi, and Guangdong etc., of whom the plantation of vanillas in Yunnan develops most quickly. Now Yunnan has about 1000 mou (about 66.7 hectares) vanillas growing very well in the open air, and have very good prospect for production. In the near future, the fertile soils of Xishuangbanna will become the major producing area of vanillas in China.