Bukidnon Vanilla at the Herbana Farms Stall


I have written about locally grown vanilla bean pods before, and was thrilled to have such an essential baking ingredient grown locally. Plump vanilla bean pods or pure vanilla extract (made from soaking the vanilla beans in alcohol) are an absolute must for bakers who seek superior results. I used to have to rely on hoarding pure vanilla extract whenever we went on trips abroad or relatives kindly brought some back with them during their annual visits. The first few vanilla beans I featured could have been grown in and around the Davao area, and lately, I have been advised that there are growers from Bukidnon who also harvest commercial quantities. There are several varieties of vanilla, but the Tahitian strain and the ones grown in Madagascar are amongst the most sought after globally. The vanilla orchid blooms and for just one day the flower must be pollinated (by hand) in order to coax the bean pod with thousands of flavorful seeds within.


In the last 2-3 months, the fresh bean pods have been scarce, and my stash in the fridge has been dwindling. So imagine my absolute glee at the Salcedo market last Saturday when i set up the feeding program ornament pick-up table across from the Herbana Farms tent and they had lots and lots of fresh vanilla bean pods and even better pure extract (Manila Vanilla brand name)! I was thrilled. I bought four bean pods (the plumpest ones), some extract and some coco sugar for some PHP800 or so. Fantastic. Thank you Gil and RT for giving some space in your tent to Manila Vanilla… I am so thrilled that they are now offering their products at the market. I did a blind sniff test between the local vanilla extract and my favorite imported brand. I have to say that the imported one was smoother and noticeably less alcohol like, more mellow, but at 2-3x the price, I think the local one will do just fine compared to its imported cousins. You can’t really taste pure vanilla extract, it is a bit strong, but the proof will be in the final baked goods… As for the coco sugar, I bought it out of curiousity as Gil said it was okay for diabetics to enjoy this sugar as opposed to cane sugar. Not sure why that is, but I have to say it was sweet and with a pleasant flavor. I have no idea what to do with it, but if you wanted some coco sugar, hit the same Herbana stall on Saturdays!



38 Responses

  1. I was just wondering the other day if there was a store here that sells good vanilla! Thanks for the heads up MM!

  2. The glycemic index of coco sugar (35) is lower than white sugar (61) so theoretically, it is better for diabetics.

  3. are those the same vanilla beans sold by gourdo’s and cook’s exchange? are they organic?

    coco sugar has a slight, but distinct coconut taste when i use it in my coffee. with its darker color, it “stains” light colored products like dark brown sugar does. i’ve been meaning to explore its uses along with coconut flour in baked products.

  4. thank you for this post MM! i have been looking for a good source of vanilla pods and extract in the philippines.

  5. Marc,you’re funny! Hope my sked frees up so I can visit Salcedo Market again this Sat to get some of those pods….

    I read up on your 2007 post re the vanilla pod and I think I’ll try to get some pods to experiment with in Vodka. It’s amazing. I didn’t know that Vanilla extract is derived through alcohol. Educational. Artisan said if you place it in,the vodka color would darken in time….hmmmmm…am curious to try that. Thanks MM!! Wonderful!!

  6. My sis-in-law has a vanilla orchid that I’ve fantasized about (someday it will disappear from her palm tree and I’ll put on my “who me?” face). Those pods look fabulous!
    I stick a few of them in my sugar jar until I need the seeds (I even return the scraped pods in the jar — sayang, eh) and use the sugar for baking for that subtle vanilla taste (worlds better than the hit-you-over-the-head-make-you-grimace-mack-truck-flavor of the local commercial “essences”). Will definitely make the trip to salcedo to try out Manila Vanilla!

    Is coco sugar similar to palm sugar? The one that’s supposed to go in rendang or other Thai/Indonesian dishes? The ones I see on cooking shows look rather like a tawny matamis na bao — but I’ve also seen them marketed as small panocha domes.

  7. Good day.

    Thank you for the great tip. I know I wont spend many wasted time searching for these vanilla pods. You are a heaven sent to us, Marketman. regarding coco sugar, I’ve learned from Mercedes from Petite patiessiere there is one store near Ateneo school or katipunan road, who are selling this Coco sugar. yes, its good for the diabetes. havent tried it but I have tasted products using this sugar and I must say its you’re using muscovado sugar. Heard also a lot about Coconut flour but cant seem to find any small kgs of it to try first.

  8. Wow, at last locals can have a taste of the real thing.

    Marketman, Can you provide vanilla address/details here in Bukidnon?


  9. I bought my local vanilla beans from Santis. Panalo talaga ito Marc because more foodies are using vanilla beans.

  10. Thanks for sharing this info MM. Wow, vanilla beans and coco sugar at Salcedo Market. I just hope that they will still sell until January 2009, all my Saturdays this December are taken over by work : (

  11. Marc I tried your adobo recipe, sarap! I also tried one before na puro ginger na dilaw and garlic and swimming in oil at a friend’s house ages ago, walang toyo din ang SARAP SARAP would anyone know how that’s made?

  12. Coco sugar is just like palm sugar that the Thais use. It is made from freshly harvested tuba which is then slowly cooked until it solidifies.

    You can also use white rum to soak your vanilla pods in instead of vodka. The alcohol is not a factor in the taste of pure vanilla extract since it mostly evaporates away when cooked.

  13. I gave away homemade vanilla essence last year (a bottle of vodka, several pods immersed in it for 6 months and lots of bottles); next year I want to use bourbon as the distilling liquid, it’ll be harder to see the color change, but I’ve read it makes for a great essence.
    I also read online (so can’t verify the source) that the Tahitian vanilla beans were first cultivated from vanilla orchids taken from franciscan monks living in Manila. Kind of an interesting sidenote, given how hard it is to find homegrown vanilla here. What happened to those vanilla orchids in the abbeys I wonder?

  14. Mila,

    Very interesting comment on franciscan monks from manila growing the vanilla beans from which the Tahitian variety is derived. Coincidentally, my fave coffee beans are also grown in a monastery farm in Bukidnon — so i’m assuming these are also grown by monks (Benedictine, this time) :D

  15. Mila,

    Read somewhere that vanilla orchids originated from mexico (in the americas in any case). Most growers elsewhere have to hand pollinate (needles are involved) because the bees that naturally pollinate them can only be found in mexico.

    I’ve been dreaming of growing my own vanilla. From my research, it’s not all that high-maintenance — except for when you have to hand-pollinate within 6 hours of the flowers coming into bloom. The tedious part is the drying process — laying them out in the sun, rolling them up in a blanket at night to sweat them, repeat for about a month (ngyark).

    Which is why I so appreciate the value of vanilla and am totally stoked that more and more local growers are selling retail.

  16. I know that Philippines, has a decidedly different climate that California, but try to store the vanilla beans somewhere other than the fridge, it’ll lose its flavor and it’ll make it tough. An air tight container in a cool dry spot will do, and try to take them out of the container every three to four weeks.

  17. I meant than California. I totally forgot to add that if left out, it might develop vanillin (smell to see if the white stuff growing smells musky or if it smells like vanilla-one is mold, the other is natural vanillin)…

  18. Hi MM,

    About the coco sugar, I bought a bag over a year ago, from the same stall that sells pastillas in a bottle. The owner said that coco sugar is indeed good for diabetics, as the owner is diabetic himself and actually uses coco sugar. It is supposed to be low in Glycemic Index

  19. MM, is the Herbana farms vanilla, Vanilla Planifolia? or Tahitensis? kasi mas mataas ang vanillin content ng planifolia kaysa tahitensis…. kaya, i’d rather get the planifolia…

    also, how much are the pods in herbana? is it classified as to the length of the pods?

    thanks… looking forward to your reply (or replies of succeeding readers)

  20. I read about Gil Carandang of herbana farm giving seminar at bolinas, california. https://newfarm.rodaleinstitute.org/features/0404/microorgs/index.shtml this guy is a genius.

    We need to clone this guy to save the ailing agricultural industry in the philippines. I still believe agriculture serving the niche market like australia will give wonders to the rest of the philippine. We have one of the best soil and natural resources in the world. Someone has to start selling and exporting our produce to high end market and restaurants. This is how we can compete with cheap products from china.

  21. MM…when your Ate sends you vanilla beans by truckload(..hahaha)…and you have booze lying around the house like light rum, vodka…though I much prefer the finished product using light rum as the distilling alcohol…try making your own vanilla extract. Materials you would need…a clean glass bottle the rim wide enough that you can make SIKSIK the spent vanilla pods I shall describe later…FILL the bottle with the booze of your choice. Now, if you want hasten the process so you won’t get DULING FROM WAITING FOREVER…put a few tbsp. of prepared vanilla extract in the bottle….split open a few vanilla pods ..put it in the bottle seeds and all…Now, each time you bake using the seeds from the pod, put that spent vanilla bean in the bottle. Put as many as you can SIKSIK in it. Put lid on. Then forget about it! Put it in a cool dry place. After a few months, open the bottle and take a whiff. Your nose will guide youo when it is ripened. Transfer the finished product in smaller bottles and give away to your foodie friends! …BUT LEAVE SOME EXTRACT in the glass bottle again and repeat the process….THAT IS WHY IT IS CALLLED “NEVERENDING VANILLA”….

    After you have taken the spent vanilla pods out of the glass bottle you just dry them thoroughly, preferably sun dried and chop them to pieces. When you grind your coffee beans, add osme of those chopped spent vanilla pods. Then before brewing it, add a pinch of salt, a pinch of cinnamon to the coffee grinds. and brew away!!!! This is how I make my morning coffee…one of those, can’t live without it!!!

    I sent a pound of vanilla beans to one of your readers DADD-F since she bakes a lot…a must try, MM is her DURIAN CAKE…I know you don’t like Durian but her cake doesn’r wreak of the durian smell or odour! …very , very subtle! and addicting too!…got sidetracked again!!! Anyway, she made the vanilla exactly like up above and raved on and on and on. I have 2 1/2 pounds to sendher this time hoping it will last her for the next 10 years!!!

  22. Bettyq, you are a walking encyclopedia of food! Wow!!!! And such a generous one, too. You and MM are kindred spirits, like two peas in a (vanilla) pod! We are all the more richer for blogging with you both.

  23. Coco sugar is a specific kind of palm sugar. In many other Southeast Asian countries, several other palm varieties are used for making palm sugar including those we know of as Kaong, Buri and Nipa.

    In Thailand, they call them nam tan ma prao if made from cocos or nam tan pep if from palmyras. In Malaysia, coco sugar is gula kelapa.

    These palm sugars are often inter-changed with one another but subtle differences are evident for the true connoisseur.

    Visit our website for more info: https://cocopalmsugar.sch.ph

  24. Vanilla planifolia cuttings are sometimes available in Manila Seedling Bank Foundation in greenhouse number 3. You need to grow them using trellis ! I saw several of them .

    Most Vanilla grown locally are just grown for their curiosity . the Philippines had about 5 species of native Vanilla – Some are still found in La Mesa Dam, Norzagaray – Bulacan (Vanilla colapogon) but most of them do not have the essential oil.

    Vanilla is now grown on Tagaytay province this was according to some of out resource people from Philippine Orchid Society

  25. Vanilla planifolia cuttings are sometimes available in Manila Seedling Bank Foundation in greenhouse number 3. You need to grow them using trellis ! I saw several of them .

    Most Vanilla grown locally are just grown for their curiosity . the Philippines had about 5 species of native Vanilla – Some are still found in La Mesa Dam, Norzagaray – Bulacan (Vanilla colapogon) but most of them do not have the essential oil.

    Vanilla is now grown on Tagaytay in Cavite province , this was according to some of out resource people from Philippine Orchid Society .

    There are some Vanilla pods being sold at Santi’s near GMA channel 7 .

  26. thank you people for the vanilla plant info. i’ve asked a grower of one vanilla plant here in cdo, he said his vanilla plant is 10years old and still haven’t flowered ever. i’l try to check the bukidnon monks if they have. i hope they have, i hope i can buy one.

  27. hello…just open our temporary website to see our farms..VANILLAPHILIPPINES.MULTIPLY.COM


    any inquiries just post them on our website…



  28. vanilla boy,
    thank you for posting.i got d number of vanillaphil.im more than happy to know its just a town away.

  29. hi vanilla boy, im from davao, where’s your farm in mindanao, saw your multiply, but there’s no address, i really like to visit it. do you sell cuttings? is it really in mindanao for real?

  30. eli baes


    Yes! the farms are truly with in the Mindanao area, but as to the specific place and details of the address I really couldn’t provide the information since the security and privacy of our farms and products will be jeopardize. And with the cuttings, we are not selling them coz until now we are still using them for expansion inside the farm.

    Anyways, thanks you so much for the visit in our website. Please do feel free to order our products online by filling our order form.

  31. vanillaboy,

    i arleady bought the six pcs pack of real vanilla pod. i mixed it with tablea and gata. delicious.


  32. Hi des obed:

    Thank you for your appreciating with our product…coming months we will introduce our pure vanilla scrape vanillin for those who love’s vanilla in it’s most purity form with out the skin, only the vanillin which is inside the beans. Also , we will produce our long time processed vanilla extracts that are kept and stored for months to enhance its purity and the ground vanilla for additional spice or ingredient of one’s recipe.

    Again I invited you ALL to come and visit our website http://www.VANILLAPHILIPPINES.multiply.com, for orders and inquires!

    We are very proud to be Philippines finest Vanilla producers.



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