Extraordinary Story : how a 12-year-old slave discovered the secret of vanilla

The story of vanilla is a true tale of travel across the world. And it begins 180 years ago with a 12-year-old boy.

It all started in Mexico, where the Totonaques, an indigenous people, first discovered vanilla. They harvested the pods from nature and used them to flavor their special drinks. The Aztecs, who conquered the Totonaques, were also enchanted by this precious spice.

When Europeans arrived in America, they brought with them plants and spices, including vanilla, to cultivate in their colonies. This is how vanilla began its journey across the oceans, eventually reaching France in the early 1600s.

But despite its journey around the world, vanilla could not produce fruit far from home. It was only when it arrived on the island of Bourbon, now called La Réunion, that something magical happened.

One day, a 12-year-old slave boy named Edmond discovered the secret of vanilla pollination. He carefully observed a vanilla flower and realized that he needed to assist in pollination for the fruits to grow. His insight revolutionized the vanilla industry, allowing La Réunion to become a major producer.

Unfortunately, Edmond was not recognized for his contribution at the time. He was accused of theft and sentenced to prison. But his legacy lives on: today, vanilla is still hand-pollinated worldwide, making each pod precious and unique.

Thus, the extraordinary story of vanilla reminds us that even the smallest discoveries can have a tremendous impact on the world. And the next time you enjoy vanilla ice cream or a deliciously fragrant cake, remember the incredible journey this spice has made to reach you.

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