Mireia, a Singapore-based and owned brand known for supplying organic artisan products that are fresh, 100% natural without artificial ingredients and GMO-free, just launched its inaugural showcase of vanilla bean plants at Gardens by the Bay.

Founders Charles Santoso and his wife Juwita Setiawan who are from Indonesia but are now Singaporeans, have always had the desire to grow their own spices and plants – especially with the rise in tainted soil, contaminated crops and use of pesticides in farming.

The flat-leaved vanilla, Vanilla planifolia, is one of three major species grown globally and commercially for their flavour and essence in culinary, perfumery and aromatherapy use. Also known as Bourbon vanilla, it forms the majority of the world’s vanilla bean trade.

The plants thrive in the tropics as climbing vines that prefer warm temperatures, high humidity, and bright indirect sunlight. They grow within 10 to 20 degrees of the equator. Growing vanilla in one’s garden or greenhouse can be fun, but more effort is required than with other house plants. The cultivation of vanilla is extremely labour-intensive.

The plants themselves do not even start producing vanilla beans until after three years. When they do finally bloom, the flowers only stay open for one day and have to be carefully hand-pollinated within 12 hours of blooming.

The crop must be cured and dried, and so from beginning to end (growth to export) the process takes a solid year. This makes vanilla such a prized culinary spice, the second most expensive spice after saffron. Most vanilla beans available today are from Madagascar, Tahiti, Mexico and Indonesia.

Despite the time and effort needed to grow vanilla, both Charles and Juwita feel that vanilla is a good plant similar to the orchid plant (also Singapore’s national flower) and their backyard offers the big space and suitable growing conditions with regards to sun, shade and height.

From growth and watering habits to fertilising and flowering steps, they gained enough knowledge and picked up the best tips to embark on their challenging new venture. They see the rewards outweigh the obstacles. In 2019, Mireia was officially established as a company in the family’s home base of Singapore. Mireia means “to admire” which is of Spanish, Catalan origin.

Mireia is currently only available for order online on their website (www.mireia.co). They provide free local shipping and delivery worldwide.

Images: Mireia

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