Taste Of Something New
Central Florida Ag News|January 2020
UF/IFAS Scientists Developing Recipe for Growing Vanilla in South Florida
Lourdes Rodriguez

A tablespoon of vanilla goes a long way. As a key spice in baking, the intoxicating aromatic bean that reminds folks of delicious holiday desserts has a variety of uses throughout the year.

As a bean, it is used to flavor foods and products from cakes to candles. As an extract, it is a basic ingredient in flavoring food, hot and cold beverages, even pharmaceutical medications. The extract provides benefits in cosmetics for its antioxidant properties, and in perfume and traditional craft markets for its scent.

New developments in genetic research conducted by University of Florida scientists in Homestead will give South Florida growers an opportunity to experiment with a large variety of vanilla bean species as early as next month. If all goes as planned, growers could find themselves starting a niche market that has been dominated by the Republic of Madagascar at a steep price.

“We have generated a vanilla genome and diversity study looking at more than 100 vanilla types. We currently have a collection of more than 200 vanilla types from this preliminary research,” says Alan Chambers, an assistant professor of horticultural sciences at UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) Tropical Research and Education Center.

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