Vanilla is prepared in a number of ways though am going to show you how to prepare it in the natural or organic way here in Uganda.
Major points to note while preparing vanilla beans in Uganda
It is very important for you to note that vanilla comes well after preparation when harvested mature. The vanilla beans have to be fully grown for you to get the best out it. Mature vanilla beans can have a length of an average of 15 cm.
So it’s very important for you note this. So, now let’s see look at the stages involved in the process of vanilla preparation. You can choose to grade the steps as you wish but for your easy understanding, this is how I have grouped them.
Stage one of preparing vanilla beans in Uganda
The first step would be harvesting the vanilla beans from the garden or plantation. Remember what we talked about earlier that the beans have to be fully mature so as the get the best result out of your vanilla.
So, after harvesting the mature vanilla beans from your garden, the first thing you will need to do will be to lay the beans in a room on a clean tapeline. The room shouldn’t be complicated as such but it should have good ventilation with a good shelter/roof. No water leakages! The beans will be kept in that room for about five (5) days. This will lead you the next stage.
Stage two: Sorting of vanilla beans
After your vanilla has spent the five (5) days in the room as we stated above, you now have sort the beans! By sorting we mean removing the rubbish and the husks on which the pods attach to while on the plant.
In this stage also you will also grade the beans by grouping the very long beans together, the short vanilla beans together and the split beans together. This will help you in the curing process as each group requires different time while curing.
Stage three: Cleaning and curing of the Vanilla Beans
The third stage will involve cleaning and curing the vanilla beans. By cleaning involve washing the beans with water. You pour water in three basins, the wash the beans in the first basin of water, move the beans to the second basin and lastly to the last basin. You must change the water when it gets too dirty.
This is done to ensure that the beans are free of dirt and clean. It’s very important to note that the split is NOT washed as you will lose all the vanilla seeds in the process. Secondly no form of any detergent or chemical should be used while washing the vanilla beans.
After that, you will now need a sack. It can be made locally through palm leaves or polythene sacks. You will also need a barrel or locally known as “piipa” locally in which you will heat the water you are going to cure the vanilla beans in.
You also need a Celsius thermometer for measuring the warmth of the water in which you are going to cure the vanilla beans. The recommended temperature for curing the vanilla beans is 75 degrees Celsius and the vanilla beans should remain in the warm water for 3 minutes strictly!
The split vanilla beans are warmed for less time i.e 2 minutes. This is because the vanilla beans are already split open hence warming them for long will merely be destroying them.
Stage four: Incubation of the Vanilla Beans
After you have warmed vanilla beans in the hot water, you will then place the beans in a blanket, fold it properly so as to keep the warmth in the vanilla to cure the beans. You then place the vanilla beans in the blanket into the incubation box. Now, I haven’t spoken about this before but this can be a wooden box that is 7 feet long, 4 feet high and 4 feet wide.
The dimensions can vary depending on the capacity of vanilla you process. But this is a good box size to start with. All the boiled vanilla beans should be placed in that box while in their blankets for two (2) full days.
Stage five: Sun drying of the Vanilla Beans
The next step is drying the vanilla beans. To produce the best dried vanilla beans, it’s highly recommended to dry the beans using the sun. For this process to commence, you will need clean tarpaulins or commonly known as a tundubali in Luganda (a local language) on which you are going to lay the vanilla. Please note; don’t lay the vanilla on bare ground as the beans will get dirty!
You will sundry the vanilla for about 2 hours and half to 3 hours every day till the beans get dry. If you have sufficient sunlight, your vanilla beans should be drying faster. You should note that the split vanilla beans dry faster, followed by the medium size then lastly the long vanilla beans.
Stage six: Sorting the dry Vanilla Beans from rollers
After the beans are almost dry, they are then placed in rollers where they will complete the drying process. The dry beans are then hand-picked or sorted from the rollers. You should take out the rollers for sun drying as usual till the all the beans have properly been dried.
Stage seven: Packaging the Cured Vanilla Beans
After you have properly hand-picked out the dry vanilla beans from those that are not, the next step is to sort them into bundles. Remember we stated earlier that the beans should be grouped according to size. So, in this stage you will do the grouping
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