De­li­cious vanilla crop

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - BUSINESS - PAUL MIL­TON BUT­LER

PORT Dou­glas vanilla bean grow­ers Rus­sell and Mary Span­ton have been nom­i­nated as fi­nal­ists for the 2012 de­li­cious mag­a­zine pro­duce awards.

Vanilla Aus­tralia, lo­cated in the foothills of Port Dou­glas and owned by the Span­tons, is con­sid­ered a pi­o­neer of the in­dus­try in Aus­tralia.

The Span­tons are grow­ing Aus­tralia’s first and finest vanilla beans us­ing bio­dy­namic and bi­o­log­i­cal meth­ods and their vanilla has one of the high­est vanillin con­tents in the world.

They are in the mid­dle of har­vest­ing this magic bean af­ter hav­ing just fin­ished pol­li­nat­ing their 45,000 vanilla plants which has taken four months.

“The pol­li­na­tion process is done by hand and we have to wait un­til the flow­ers open and then Rus­sell and I have to hand-pol­li­nate the flow­ers be­fore they close again,” Mrs Span­ton said.

“If we get the tim­ing wrong and not get the flower pol­li­nated then af­ter the flower closes it will sim­ply die and drop off the vine.”

It is a very labour-in­ten­sive crop to look af­ter and there is also a com­pli­cated time­con­sum­ing dry­ing process once the beans have been har­vested, but Mrs Span­ton said all of the hard work was pay­ing off be­cause the beans are pro­duc­ing ex­cel­lent vanilla and peo­ple are en­joy­ing it.

Nearly 2000 nom­i­na­tions were re­ceived for the de­li­cious mag­a­zine pro­duce awards this year. Prod­ucts were judged by a panel of lead­ing chefs in each state, and their short­list of fi­nal­ists will now go to the next round.

The five pri­mary pro­duce na­tional judges will de­cide on the stand-outs in each cat­e­gory -Earth, which the Span­tons have been se­lected in - Dairy, Pad­dock, Sea and Ar­ti­san.

The judg­ing has un­cov­ered an abun­dance of qual­ity from some of Aus­tralia’s top pro­duc­ers and ar­ti­sans.

The na­tional judg­ing panel com­prises some of Aus­tralia’s most re­spected chefs, in­clud­ing Matt Mo­ran (ARIA Res­tau­rant), Philip John­son (E’cco Bistro) and Mag­gie Beer.

The win­ners will be an­nounced in the Au­gust is­sue of de­li­cious mag­a­zine, which is re­leased on July 18.

Mrs Span­ton said it felt heart-warm­ing to be recog­nised for your work.

“We are prouder still that we have been able to de­liver beau­ti­ful or­ganic vanilla essence and vanilla beans to all of our clients,” she said.

Photo by NEIL WEAVERS

Cream of the crop: Mary and Rus­sell Span­ton

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