An island of fragrances and spices, Reunion’s fertile soil has welcomed numerous species of plants (coffee, sugar cane, nutmeg, vanilla, geranium…) cultivated for their international commercial value. Discover these, and other treasures, of the plant kingdom, in numerous gardens that are open to visitors. Go to Saint-Paul for the spices, the colourful baskets and the fruit, and to Saint-Philippe for its exceptional vanilla scents
Reunion Island’s Bourbon vanilla
Bourbon vanilla has garnered an international reputation for the quality of its pods, which are still cultivated by hand today. This member of the orchid family was imported to Reunion at the very beginning of the 19th century. While, for centuries, the world’s learned men hadn’t been able to figure out how to artificially pollinate vanilla, a young Reunionese slave, Edmond Albius, who was passionate about botany, came up with the idea of bringing the male and female organs of the plant together. Since 1841, nothing has changed!
Visit a vanilla plantation.
This local “saffron” is a tuber which, once dried, is reduced to a powder. The turmeric tradition has been perpetuated in the Plaine-des-Grègues, situated up in the hills of the south of the island. You can even find the House of Turmeric there.
Much of the high quality pink peppercorns sold on the market in Europe is from Reunion. This spice, formerly called rose pepper, gives off a sweet, spicy and pepper-like fragrance. A little tour of “Jardin d’Eden” (The Garden of Eden) offers the visitor an overview of spices and other plants of Reunion Island.
The early evening air is filled with the fragrant scent of the ylang-ylang, wonderfully mixed with the scent of night jasmine.
This is the oldest of Reunion’s fragrant plants. Long ago used to make roofs for houses, vetiver is a key ingredient for many perfumes. It is also useful in protecting floors against erosion, and in repelling mites from closets and drawers.
For a long time, this plant used to be cultivated in Reunion on a large scale. Although this is no longer the case today, you will often come across individual gardens in the hills of Reunion where local farmers distil the geraniums themselves. If any of these farmers happen to also be restaurateurs, don’t hesitate to ask for a demonstration.
The heady fragrance of geraniums lines the road as you drive through to”Petite France” on your way up to the Maido. Mountain-bike trails go right through the fields!
Bourbon Pointu Coffee
Bourbon Pointu is a variety of coffee which only exists in Reunion. It is among the best coffees in the world and is categorized as a Premium Coffee. It is characterized by its low-caffeine content. Its original production was put on hold to make way for sugar cane, but the bean has persisted in Creole gardens and has just recently become a commercial affair. It is presently the most expensive coffee in the world!
White tea is a product of Grand Coude which may be cinnamon or lemon grass scented.It is possible to visit a tea plantation at the “Enchan-tea’d Labyrinth”.