Thursday, May 23, 2024
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Drying And Fermentation Of Vanilla 

by Jacquiline Nakandi
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By Umar Nsubuga

Phoebe Kagambe Kusiima, a vanilla farmer in Rwentale-Kamata village, Kigoyera Parish, Kyarusozi sub-county in Kyenjojo district says the vanilla beans are picked when ready, full, with just a hint of yellow at one tip, not splitting or fully yellow. 

She advises farmers to immediately kill the beans by putting them in direct sun for a few hours until they are very hot.

“Sort them by size, with the larger and smaller ones grouped in different piles. Separation is necessary because larger and smaller beans cure at different rates. Wrap the beans in their respective piles in pieces of black cotton. Put this bundle in a plastic bag inside a closed box, overnight,” she explains.

According to Kagambe, the sweating process will begin. Each day, unwrap the beans and spread them out in the sun for about three hours, then wrap them back up in the cotton and plastic, the sweating process will take place in the box.

“Repeat this process daily for two to three weeks, or until the beans are soft, fragrant, pliable, and relatively flat. Small beans can tolerate less sun than large beans and will take a shorter period of time to cure,” she says. 

She adds that a farmer must avoid overexposing the beans because they will dry out and harden.

Curing dehydrates the beans and ferments the interior which improves the fragrance and flavour.  She says the beans should never, ever, get hard or crispy, and they should never grow mold. 

The point is for them to become thoroughly immersed in their own oils. 

After the beans are sunned and sweated until black, fragrant, and pliable, she says it’s time to slow dry them in a shady indoor place on a rack.

“Do this for about three months, monitoring them closely to remove any that show signs of mold. When properly sunned and sweated, they should not mold. At this point the vanilla can be stored in glass containers, or used to make vanilla extract”, Kagambe says.

LEAD PHOTO CAPTION: Phoebe Kagambe Kusiima, a vanilla farmer in Kyenjojo district in her vanilla garden. Photo by Umar Nsubuga

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