Chasing the Elusive Vanilla Orchid in Hawaii



By Ann Shepphird of

Did you know that vanilla comes from an orchid? Okay, let’s say you did. How about the fact that the Vanilla Planifolia Orchid’s flower only blooms one day a year and has to be hand-pollinated? Or that vanilla only grows in the equatorial belt – Hawaiian Vanilla Company20 degrees north or south of the equator? Might help explain why it is so hard to find (not to mention rather pricey), right?

Luckily, no longer will trips to Madagascar be in order for those looking to see the elusive vanilla orchid in action. The Hawaiian Vanilla Company, located in a rainforest 1,900 feet up the slopes of Mauna Kea on Hawaii’s Big Island, is not only open for tours but, for those who want to taste vanilla used in some truly unique ways, offers lunch and afternoon tea as well.

Owned and operated by the Reddekopp family (the whole family – Jim’s the farmer and guide, Tracy’s the chef and the kids serve as kitchen help and servers), the Hawaii Vanilla Company offers its meals in a restored coffee mill.

The lunch we had included vanilla-bourbon citrus-marinated chicken with vanilla carmelized onions on herbed foccaccia bread (with vanilla-mango chutney aioli or vanilla-infused barbecue sauce on the side), a salad made with organic greens from the local Kula Kahiko aquaponic farm plus crumbled feta, vanilla-honey peppered pecans and a vanilla-raspberry balsamic vinaigrette (which was for sale in their store ) and, of course, vanilla bean ice cream with a choice of toppings.

In case you were wondering, yes, Tracy is working on a cookbook.


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