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Heilala New Zealand Vanilla

There’s an interesting story behind Heilala vanilla. John Ross, his daughter Jennifer and her husband Garth Boggiss went to the Kingdom of Tonga to start a vanilla growing aid project way back in 2003. This eventually became Reunion Foods and they are exporting their vanilla all over the world.

Wanting to set up a research and development facility for when they were not able to be in Tonga, the three began growing vanilla in a bathroom in Tauranga until a greenhouse could be set up. Success followed and they established Heilala Vanilla. It is the only vanilla in the world grown outside of the tropics. The success is owed in part to our volcanic landscape which provides geothermal water for heating the greenhouse. Because of this, Garth has referred to Heilala vanilla as “volcanic vanilla”.

After getting my hands on some of the product I couldn’t wait to make something with it. The Heilala website has heaps of recipes and I love the idea of using things normally associated with sweet dishes in savoury ones. So, I opted to make the pear salad with lemon and vanilla dressing. My husband and I loved the vanilla seeds in the dressing. The taste is difficult to describe but the vanilla pods themselves, if you’ve never used a whole one, have a vanilla-y musky sort of smell. It’s a bit like drying tobacco leaves mixed with that lovely sweet scent of natural vanilla.

I have to say it’s the first time I’ve ever used a whole vanilla pod and it was really exciting even if only for the sake of finding out what it’s like to work with the whole animal. Finding out how many miniscule seeds are in one pod is amazing. And the by-product is that I’ve got a wonderfully scented pod left over to stick in my sugar container. Oooo, what shall I make with vanilla sugar?

Heilala also produce a number of other products including vanilla paste, extract, and sugar.

What are you going to make?

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8 Responses to "Heilala New Zealand Vanilla"

  1. Marie says:

    Isn’t that cool?! I wish I could grow orchids of any sort. It is not my gift.

  2. Carrie Anne says:

    I have always wanted to get my hands on some fresh vanilla pods. Someday. I find it fascinating that vanilla comes from an orchid!

  3. Marie says:

    Thanks, HellaD. It’s inspiration for sure!

  4. hellaD says:

    Hey this is fantastic! Growing vanilla in a bathroom, what an interesting story.

  5. Marie says:

    Hi Jennifer and thanks for visiting. I can't wait to start infusing my vodka. I'd better wait until the weekend, though, because it sounds like something I could over do a wee bit! I'm crossing my fingers that Rene doesn't give you too much trouble.

  6. Jennifer says:

    Well Heilala Vanilla 42 Below already exists. Simply take a lovely juicy rich Heilala bean (they are all lovely and rich) and place it in a 42 Below bottle (the straight vodka not the flavored vodka) over night. And the next day you will have the best Vanilla infused Vodka in the world. And it’s natural. Once you find the Vanilla taste is at the perfect level – then remove the bean as our beans are so packed with flavor, they will keep on adding taste. Drink with tropical flavors like the Phoenix Apple Guava mix. Or straight over ice is amazing. And you may get a little color in the Vodka too. This comes from the bean and is perfectly natural (of course) Enjoy”Thanks for the posting on our Vanilla. We are all waiting to see what Cyclone Rene does to the plantation as I type!

  7. Marie says:

    Good ol' NZ two degrees of separation, eh! Surely they talk about this over dinner then. Maybe Heilala 42 below won't be too far off??Thanks for visiting!

  8. Anonymous says:

    Marie said…Ummmmmmm…drink it?That sounds delicious. We have an NZ produced vodka called 42 Below. Maybe they should get together with the Heilala folks!Funny you should say that! The person who established 42 below is in fact the son and brother of the owners of Heilala Vanilla!

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