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Anything but plain: inside the Australian push to grow vanilla outside the tropics | Agriculture

In the humid jungles of Mexico, the melipona bee flits under the canopy’s patchwork light. As it comes across a vine, it pauses at a pale green-yellow flower, an orchid type creature which yawns open its petals for just a few hours a day. Seizing this brief window of opportunity, the melipona’s stinger pierces a thin, nearly invisible membrane separating the male and female parts of the flower allowing the pollen to reach the stigma.

From this tiny act a long, thin green vanilla bean will form. This is the way vanilla has grown for centuries.

One of Australian Vanilla Plantations’ geodomes.

On the New South Wales Central Coast it is grey and wet and the mid-September chill has not yet left the air. There are snow gums and long grass and a couple of truck cabs next to a corrugated iron shed. There are no Mexican bees here. But there is vanilla.

Inside a white geodome, like a giant half-golf ball resting in a backyard, are 200…

Read more at www.theguardian.com

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