Saturday October 9, a day trip to Sainte-Suzanne.
First stop the Bel-Air Lighthouse. Built in 1845, it was the first and still is the only lighthouse on the island.
Next stop, La Vanilleraie Plantation. Vanilla planifolia, a species of vanilla orchid, is the primary source of vanilla flavoring. This plant is native to Mexico, Guatemala and Belize. First introduced in Reunion Island in 1819, however they struggled to thrive because the bees that naturally fertilize the plants do not exist on Reunion. A method of hand pollination was discovered and is still used today. With this discovery, Reunion became the leading producer of vanilla in the world in the late 19th century, exporting 200 tons. Today there are more than 30 vanilla farmers.
Vanilla pods are harvested when a yellow color appears on the bottom of the tip. To prevent the pods from splitting and loosing their flavor, they are blanched in 149 degree water for 3 minutes. A basket is used to immerse the pods in water. Quickly drained pods are placed in storage chests lined with blankets for 24 hours to make them sweat. This steaming process stage will make the color change from green to a chocolate color. Drying the vanilla begins outside with sun drying for about two weeks, the pods are then placed on racks indoors for 2-3 months. The dry vanilla pods are then placed in teak storage chests for a year to mature.
Sizing the length of vanilla pods, less than 14cm are considered inferior, classical lengths 14-19cm and gourmet is a minimum of 20cm.
Depending on where vanilla is grown, the flavor is different. Mexican vanilla is more of a chocolate flavor, Reunion has a prune flavor and Madagascar has a dry tobacco flavor.
La Cascade Niagara, The Niagara waterfall is formed by the waters of the Sainte-Suzanne River. At a height of about 82 feet, it flows into a pool where you can swim. A popular site for picnics, it is located in the middle of sugar cane fields.
Sundowners with Aure’Lie and Gilles, they are on a sailboat across from us on the dock.