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Lunch and Learning at the Hawaiian Vanilla Company

December 30, 2010

Discovering Vanilla planifolia – The Vanilla Orchid

Hawaiian Vanilla Company Vanilla Beans

Vanilla bean pods growing in the Hawaiian Vanilla Co. garden

Located on the slopes of Mauna Kea on the Hamakua coast of Hawaii’s Big Island, the Hawaiian Vanilla Company is the only commercial vanilla farm in the United States. Vanilla is a tropical orchid that requires hand pollination, so to visit HVC is to learn about the fascinating process of starting new plants, nurturing them, pollinating the blossoms, harvesting a successful crop of vanilla beans, drying the beans and then finding a number of creative uses for the final product.

In his presentation, Jim Reddekopp, the owner of HVC, shared with us how easy it is to make your own vanilla extract. Chef Ina Garten, he says, has been decanting and making extract from the same vodka bottle for about 25 years! I made vanilla sugar when I lived in Honolulu, after discovering Hawaiian-grown vanilla beans at Diamond Head Market and Grill, but I haven’t tried my own extract yet. That’s definitely going on the 2011 “to-do” list!

The Hawaiian Vanilla Luncheon Experience

Hawaiian Vanilla Company Big Island

Hawaiian Vanilla Company on the Big Island's Hamakua Coast

For our first visit, we opted to try HVC’s signature Hawaiian Vanilla Luncheon Experience and to do the afternoon farm tour. HVC also offers an Upcountry Tea a little later in the day. On the menu at lunch:

  • Orange-vanilla marinated breast and caramelized onions atop herbed focaccia bread, with Vanilla-Mango Chutney aioli.
  • Way South West roasted red potatoes.
  • Farm fresh organic greens with Vanilla-Raspberry Vinaigrette, crumbled feta and Vanilla-Honey-Peppered Pecans.

The vanilla lemonade was a special treat and, for dessert, we enjoyed vanilla ice cream with a choice of chocolate fudge, toffee or lilikoi toppings and coffee with vanilla sugar.

Visiting the Hawaiian Vanilla Company

Hawaiian Vanilla Company Farm Tour

Hawaiian Vanilla Company farm tour

I highly recommend a visit to the Hawaiian Vanilla Company, with one word of caution:

Weather on the Big Island can be somewhat unpredictable, so, if possible, check the weather report for the Hamakua coast and try to make the drive for your visit to the vanilla farm on a clear day. For me, part of the experience of visiting areas like Honoka’a and Paauilo Mauka is enjoying the incredible (yes, even breathtaking) views of the blue ocean in contrast with the green pastures of the fertile Hamakua land.

Of course, if you can’t visit soon, you can order vanilla beans and other products on the HVC website.

Hawaiian Vanilla Company vanilla plant

A young vanilla vine in an experimental growing medium

Learn more about vanilla in the Food Network Food Encyclopedia.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. December 30, 2010 11:59 am

    Great post, Cynthia! I’ve been wanting to go there for years and just haven’t been able to make plans for it.

  2. January 4, 2011 2:47 pm

    I never even knew this place existed! And to be the only one in the United States? You’re kidding?!? This is great!

  3. Judith West permalink
    January 15, 2013 7:52 pm

    So glad we came for a wonderful lunch and tour. A must do when you are on the Big Island. Judy & Jim West

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