Vanilla From Uganda

Uganda is a landlocked country in East Africa with rolling hills and low mountains. It is believed that vanilla was first introduced to Uganda in the 1940s by British farmers.

Unlike other growing regions, vanilla grown in Uganda can be harvested twice a year, in December and in June or July, due to the country’s distinct weather patterns. Although vanilla-pollinating bees do live in Uganda, they are too few and far between to be of much use, so Ugandan beans are hand-pollinated. The beans are best picked when the ends become slightly yellow and split. Then, they go through a blanching, sweating and storing process similar to that of Madagascar.

The Vanilla beans cultivated in Uganda have a creamy tasting just  like the Madagascar Bourbon, but slightly sweeter, with notes of chocolate.

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Types of Vanilla Beans You Should Know about

Just like chile peppers and wine, different vanilla beans have different flavor profiles depending on where they are grown. This is not only caused by the differences in climate and soil, but also by each regions' unique method of curing and drying.

Mexican Vanilla Beans

Mexican vanilla beans, from the genus planifolia, have a reputation for being the best vanilla beans in the world – vanilla did originate in this area so you shouldn't be surprised. Mexico actually had a monopoly on vanilla beans until the 1800's explorers started exporting them to other countries. Mexican vanilla beans are thicker than other varieties.

The flavor profile of Mexican Vanilla Beans is similar to Madagascar vanilla beans though the Mexican vanilla has a mellower, smooth, quality and a spicy, woody fragrance that provides a depth that the other vanilla beans can't match.

The bold, robust flavor of Mexican Vanilla Beans is perfect in recipes where vanilla is playing a starring role which makes it perfect in rich baked goods, cheesecakes, chocolate desserts, custards, crème brulee, ice cream and sweet breads.

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Madagascar Vanilla Beans

Madagascar vanilla beans, also known as Bourbon vanilla beans, have nothing to do with bourbon or any other type of alcohol (unless you are making vanilla extract). Instead, these vanilla beans from the genus planifolia, which originated in the Americas, are grown on the islands in the Indian Ocean.

These islands include Madagascar, the Comoros, and Réunion, formerly the Île Bourbon (where Bourbon Vanilla gets its' name).

Bourbon vanilla beans are the most popular type of vanilla, resulting from their clear and creamy flavor and the fact that Madagascar is the world's top producer of vanilla. These vanilla beans are the thinnest of the four types and also have the most flavor.

Madagascar vanilla beans work extremely well with apples, eggs, fish, ice cream, melon, milk, peaches, pears and strawberries.

Tahitian Vanilla Beans

Tahitian vanilla beans are the most expensive type of vanilla bean, but don't let that deter you. These vanilla beans have a superb flavor and aroma. From the genus tahitiensis, these vanilla beans are wide and flat, while also containing less vanillin, an organic compound in vanilla beans that is responsible for the characteristic aroma and flavor, than the other three types.

The aroma is floral with undertones of ripe fruit with a deep, rich flavor that includes cherry-chocolate, licorice and caramel. These characteristics make this type of vanilla the most used in commercial perfume products. 

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Ugandan Vanilla Beans

Sometimes Ugandan vanilla beans get overshadowed by these first three types of Vanilla, but Ugandan vanilla beans more than deserve to be included in any list of high quality vanilla beans.

Vanilla beans that are produced in Uganda are much rarer than the first three types and have an incredible flavor profile and aroma. The aroma is earthy with hints of milk chocolate, while the flavor is bold because of the high levels of vanillin.

These beans are similar in flavor to the creamy Madagascar beans, but are sweeter with a hint of milk chocolate which compliments dishes that also include chocolate. They are perfect for making incredibly rich desserts including ice cream, cookies and drinks.

How is Ugandan Vanilla different from that of Madagascar?

Uganda produces some of the absolute best vanilla beans in the world. The vanilla beans are high in vanillin content, favored by many manufactures for making vanilla extract and have a rich flavor profile that stands up well in baking applications.

Bourbon style vanilla pods from Uganda are significantly different than Madagascar vanilla beans. Ugandan vanilla beans are quite supple with a dark brown to black appearance usually a bit heavier than Madagascar.

Each country or regions imparts a certain element of character that distinguishes one vanilla bean from the other. The appearance is overshadowed by the rich, earthy, milk chocolate like aroma that pairs perfectly with many desserts.

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What is the best Grade of vanilla?

There are two grades that most people are familiar with: Grade A Prime Gourmet, which is about 30% moisture, and Grade B Extract, which is about 20% moisture.  Grade A should be used for cooking and can be used for making extract. 

Grade B should be used for making vanilla extract.  Grade B is usually too dry to scrape the caviar out, although you might be able to do so with some beans.

Most of the times the beans are grouped together for easy  distinguishing. They even have different prices. Grade A has a higher price than Grade B.

Growing Vanilla In Uganda

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When you hear “cure the vanilla beans” we simply mean the process of making the vanilla beans get the aroma. Green vanilla beans are almost odorless and …

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If pollination was successful on your vanilla plant, a green pod will slowly lengthen below the shriveled flower. After pollination, vanilla beans take …

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