I love the taste and smell of vanilla; and find creamy vanilla ice-cream, the kind where you can just see the bean flecks, and light fluffy sponges made with real vanilla extract irresistible and comforting. Good quality vanilla bean pod sticks, extract, and paste is valued by bakers and chefs looking to add that familiar rich flavour and intense aroma to their culinary creations. One brand favoured by some of the UK’s leading chefs is Ndali; a 1000-acre farm located in the midst of the explosion craters of the Ndali Volcanic Field in Western Uganda; and is a farm that specialises in producing high-quality vanilla extract, powder, and pods. Extracted and cured on the farm, most of the vanilla produced is exported in bulk, with the cream of the crop packaged into small batches and sold under the name Ndali.
The Ndali estate has a long history, originally bought in the 1960s by Major Trevor Price who initially meant it to be a tea-growing estate but found the soil to be too alkaline, resulting in the farm being left to grow wild. Following a period of political turbulence, the farm was seized by the state but today is now privately owned by the Price/Sturdy families; with Lulu Sturdy having taken over the farm in 1998. Lulu began experimenting with growing chilli, rice and coffee before turning to, and finding success with vanilla. Ndali vanilla products are 100% vanilla; no pesticides, herbicides or artificial fertilisers are used, along with no additives being used in the curing and extraction processes. Ndali is fairtrade focused; and as well as growing vanilla on the farm vanilla is also sourced from local farmers in a partnership that has seen 1000 farmers becoming fairtrade accredited.
The farmers cultivate their vines along 200 miles of road, stretching from the Congolese border to the Rift Valley. Vanilla is an orchid vine that originated from Central America and is a plant that grows in leafy tropical latitudes, requiring lots of patchy sunlight, buckets of rain, and rich soils. Vanilla thrives best as small-scale forestry as it requires a large amount of care; pruning, mulching, and hand pollinating. Taking around five to seven years to break even with a vanilla crop, vanilla beans are harvested 9-11 months after pollination, and the longer the beans are left on the vine the better the quality. Alongside cultivating vanilla, the farm also breeds milking cows; grows bananas, cocoa, cardamom, Arabica, and Robusta coffee; and distills banana gin.
…if looking for other ways to cook with vanilla besides baking, the Ndali website offers some tasty recipes
Vanilla prices range from: £4.99-£5.99
For further information about Ndali and for bulk orders visit: www.ndali.net
Ndali Vanilla is available from leading supermarkets and delicatessens across the UK