John Ross, his daughter Jennifer and her husband Garth Boggiss first started growing vanilla in Tonga as an aid project designed to give locals a new means of income. It was successful. Part of the success was because a greenhouse in Tauranga, in the North Island of New Zealand, was able to be used to cultivate the plants.
Because of the amount of volcanic activity here in New Zealand, the greenhouse could be heated through geothermal power. With this in mind the entrepreneurs thought why not try to actually grow the vanilla to full size, harvestable plants here. Luckily for New Zealand, the plan worked and we now have the first vanilla in the world that was grown outside of the tropics.
Technically, you could call it volcanic vanilla!
To find out more about the project, visit the website at Heilala Vanilla. They even have a video and some delicious looking recipes.
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