Vanilla is one of the world’s most popular – but also most expensive – spices.
Although the orchid originates from Mexico, around 80% of the world’s vanilla is grown in cyclone-prone Madagascar, making it sensitive to fluctuations in supply and price.
However, the spice is now being grown in the cooler climate of the Netherlands.
According to the Wageningen University researchers, controlled cultivation in greenhouses allows the producers to grow quality vanilla and to regulate the vanillin content.
Senior scientific researcher at Wageningen University and head of taste research at BU Greenhouse Horticulture Dr Wouter Verkerke said: “Previously it was said that the cultivation of vanilla was only possible in the tropics, but it is very possible to grow this in Dutch greenhouses.
“A well-developed infrastructure, stable government, a high level of knowledge and close contact between growers and buyers make it possible to conduct research into the cultivation of this type of ingredient.”
Still at the research stage, the project, dubbed Nedervanille (Nethervanilla), recently got a financial boost in the form of a public-private partnership called ‘New safe crops in the greenhouse’.
This project will also see Dutch researchers grow black pepper, wasabi, salep and saffron in greenhouses.
Participating companies include Intertaste, Valstar Holland Eminent, Eminent Food, Eminent Seeds and Iribov SBW.