Vanilla - Baking IngedientThe Ndali Estate is a 1000 acre farm set in volcanic soil in the tropics of Western Uganda. The farm specialise in the organic, Fairtrade growing and curing of fine vanilla, the best of which is sold as "Ndali" vanilla.

Vanilla grows best in small-scale agro-forestry, it takes considerable time and care to produce the beans. Vanilla flowers the world-over are pollinated by hand to ensure a good crop since the very specific pollinating insects are not numerous enough to ensure this. So, the farmers must be on-hand within 8 hours of the flower opening to perform the delicate operation. After pollination, the beans then take 9 to 11 months to be ready for harvest at which point they are still green.

The next stage of vanilla production is to cure the green beans. This is a lengthy (3-6 month) process where the beans are blanched in hot water, sweated in woollen blankets and exposed to hot sunshine repeatedly to allow the vanillin flavour to develop. At this point, the young vanilla pod as you would recognise is ready, although, before shipping, the beans are matured for even better flavour which, like wine, develops with time in the right conditions. Exceptional vanilla has white crystals of vanilla visible on the surface of the pod.

Our in house baker, Vanessa Kimbell, has visited Ndali and met Lulu Sturdy, the owner to find out what makes the best vanilla and to see the curing process. Watch the video to find out about Ndali.

Vanilla Pictures