All-Natural Epicurious Hedgehog Orange Extract

NEI’s all-natural Epicurious Hedgehog Orange Extract is made from sun-soaked bitter oranges (citrus x aurentium), hand-picked by farmers in the lush coastal groves of Tanga in Tanzania. Orange oil is extracted from the fruits’ peels by rolling them over a plate of spikes, a very time intensive process. The oil is then brought to NEI’s factory to be processed into extract.

The processing begins with a solution of sugarcane ethanol and water being added to an extraction tank. The orange oil is then stirred into this solution.

fullsizeoutput_3d28

During the slow mixing process, which lasts for days, aromatic compounds from the oil dissolve into the solution, while the unpalatable compounds remain in the oil (these are called terpenes).

The mixture then cools and partitions itself. The oil settles on the top, separated from the extract by a buffer. The extract is removed from the tank, containing all the the bitter orange zest flavour from the oil, but with none of the terpenes remaining in the extract.

The extract is then filtered, bottled and ready to be sold. Recently, our orange extract has been significantly improved – its strength and flavour have been perfected. It is concentrated and flavoursome, bursting with bright citrus zest flavours. It is a perfect addition to baked goods, sorbets, ice-creams and cocktails. A very small amount goes a long way. Be sure to try this recipe for cranberry orange oatmeal cookies, mix yourself a cranberry orange rum cocktail, or whip up a balsamic orange vinaigrette for your salad, and experience the delicious citrus flavour for yourself!

 

Cranberry Orange Oatmeal Cookies

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Epicurious Hedgehog Vanilla Extract
  • 1 teaspoon Epicurious Hedgehog Orange Extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar and white sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla and orange extract. Combine the flour, baking soda and cinnamon; stir into the butter mixture. Stir in the oats and cranberries. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven, or until golden brown. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 2 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Cranberry Orange Rum Cocktail

  • 6 cups cranberry juice
  • 1 teaspoons Epicurious Hedgehog Orange Extract (add more as desired)
  • 1 1/2 cups spiced rum

Pour the cranberry juice, orange extract and rum into a glass pitcher. Stir to combine. Chill for four to six hours. Yields 4 servings.

 

Balsamic Orange Vinaigrette

  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon spicy mustard or dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic or garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon lemon juice (fresh or bottled)
  • 1/8 teaspoon Epicurious Hedgehog Orange Extract

Whisk all ingredients together in a jar.

Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation at NEI

Because Kilimanjaro and its economy are largely dependent on the smallholder-based agriculture sector, they are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Approximately 90% of Tanzania’s population, as with the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa, is dependent on rain-fed crops for their food security. Climate change negatively impacts such crop production through rainfall variability and temperature shocks, threatening the livelihoods of farmers (Arslan, Belotti & Lipper, 2017; Moore et al., 2011).

Natural Extracts Industries (NEI) is working hard to address this. Our work firstly addresses deforestation through agroforestry. Because vanilla requires shade to grow, forest conservation is promoted throughout our network of farmers. This is vital, as cutting down forests releases the carbon stored within them into the atmosphere, a
process accounting for 17% of carbon emissions globally (Gorte & Sheikh, 2010). An estimated 500 to 750 tonnes of carbon are stored in each hectare of forest, with Tanzania losing approximately 400,000 hectares every year (Khatun et al., 2015; Komba & Muchapondwa, 2015). These emissions have drastically changed the local climate.

fullsizeoutput_3b92

In order to help our farmers mitigate the effects of climate change on their vanilla and other crops, we have begun implementing several strategies, one of which is our rainwater harvesting project, funded by our partner organization MEDA. Farmers are selected for the program based on their level of water-stress, with priority given to our women farmers as well. They receive a rainwater harvesting tank and all required infrastructure installed at their farm free of charge. The size of the tank varies based on the number of vanilla vines each farmer grows.

fullsizeoutput_3b8bAfter receiving tanks from NEI, farmers are trained both on how to use the tanks and on how to most effectively utilize the harvested water for their irrigation purposes. Each vanilla vine requires approximately one litre of water a week, which can be achieved by implementing a bottle-drip irrigation system. NEI has already installed 74 tanks to 74 farmer beneficiaries, and aims to reach a total of 200 tanks by the end of 2018. In addition, NEI is also repairing water furrows.

 

 

Farmer Profile:fullsizeoutput_3b8c

Mary Ulomi lives in the village of Uswaa in Kilimanjaro with her husband and five children. Her livelihood is solely dependant on agriculture. Using her extra income generated from growing vanilla with NEI, Mary was able both to send her children to school and invest in other economic activities such as maize cultivation.

In the past, however, Mary has struggled with drought at her farm. She has even lost vanilla plants, which dried up due to the lack of water. In order to address this issue, NEI installed a rainwater harvest tank at Mary’s farm in August, and provided her with training on how to use her tank. She is now utilizing bottle-drip irrigation for her vanilla as well. Since the installation of the tank, her plants have remained in good health and she hopes to achieve increased yields in the coming season.

 

References

Arslan, A., Belotti, F., & Lipper, L. (2017). Smallholder productivity and weather shocks: Adoption and impact of widely promoted agricultural practices in Tanzania. Food Policy, 69, 68-81. doi:10.1016/j.foodpol.2017.03.005 (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0306919217301872)

Gorte, R. W., & Sheikh, P. A. (2010). Deforestation and Climate Change. Congressional Research Service. (http://forestindustries.eu/sites/default/files/userfiles/1file/R41144.pdf)

Khatun, K., Gross-Camp, N., Corbera, E., Martin, A., Ball, S., & Massao, G. (2015). When Participatory Forest Management makes money: insights from Tanzania on governance, benefit sharing, and implications for REDD. Environment and Planning A, 47(10), 2097-2112. doi:10.1177/0308518×15595899 (http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0308518X15595899)

Komba, C., & Muchapondwa, E. (2016). An analysis of factors affecting household willingness to participate in the REDD programme in Tanzania. Climate and Development, 1-14. doi:10.1080/17565529.2016.1145098 (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/296475511_An_analysis_of_factors_affecting_household_willingness_to_participate_in_the_REDD_programme_in_Tanzania)

Moore, N., Alagarswamy, G., Pijanowski, B., Thornton, P., Lofgren, B., Olson, J., . . . Qi, J. (2011). East African food security as influenced by future climate change and land use change at local to regional scales. Climatic Change, 110(3-4), 823-844. doi:10.1007/s10584-011-0116-7 (https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10584-011-0116-7)

 

It’s Pollination Season in Kilimanjaro!

This September, NEI held a special training for our Farmer Champions teaching them how to pollinate vanilla. This is such a vital part of the vanilla growing process that the training will be repeated three times. Our Farmer Champions will disseminate this knowledge throughout our entire network of more than 1600 farmers, ensuring that each farmer maximizes their harvest, and therefore their income!

Hand pollination of vanilla is a very delicate process. Each flower blooms only once and must be pollinated within a 6 to 8 hour window of doing so. To complete the pollination, our farmers use a toothpick to push up the rostellum, a very small flap in the centre of the flower. This allows pollen to be passed from the anther to the stigma.

fullsizeoutput_3ad4

At our training, farmers receive hands-on instruction from our field officers on how to do this correctly. Each farmer can practice their pollination skills, as well as provide support and advice to one another. Pollination is so important because it enables the vine to grow long green fruits, commonly referred to as pods. These green pods are what is harvested and then cured to make black vanilla pods, which in turn are used to make the Epicurious Hedgehog Vanilla Extract you know and love!

The reason vanilla must be pollinated by hand is a rather interesting one. Vanilla, which originates from the tropical forests of Mexico, can only be pollinated in nature by a very specific type of bee known as the melipona bee.

When Mexico was colonized, Europeans fell in love with the flavour and took vanilla plants back with them to grow in their tropical African colonies. Since the melipona bee does not exist elsewhere in the world, the vanilla was not pollinated and, therefore, did not produce fruit.

Europeans tried unsuccessfully to introduce the melipona bee, and it wasn’t until 1836 that Belgian botanist Charles Morren discovered it was possible to pollinate vanilla by hand. Since then, vanilla has been enjoyed as a delicious flavour worldwide.  

 

References

Howell, M. (2016, May 05). Hand-pollination used to produce vanilla. Retrieved September 26, 2017, from http://newsok.com/article/5496227

Kull, T., Arditti, J., & Wong, S. M. (2009). Orchid biology: reviews and perspectives, X. New York: Springer.

Tracking Vanilla In Tanzania

At Natural Extracts Industries, Ltd. we are proud of the high-quality standards we have set for sustainable vanilla production in Tanzania.  Each year we strive to improve the processes from planting, cultivation, pollination, harvesting, purchasing and finally the curing.  How vanilla from other countries comes to market has been the target of mystery and sometimes even stories of farmer exploitation.

So, now more than ever it has become important to track the source of vanilla we collect from our farmers to provide added transparency and accountability into the supply chain of our vanilla.  As we move to certify farms producing organic vanilla, it will provide additional assurances that our farmers continue to be paid fairly and ensure certified farms continue to use best practices.

Aarti Mahajan, who joined the NEI team to lead the initiative to deploy an ICT platform, called Source Trace,  to our farmer network says, “Source Trace provides complete visibility of our vanilla from the farm to our factory.  The ease of use of the interface allows us to distribute tablets with the Source Trace application to our lead farmers.  Source Trace is a powerful tool that allows the NEI team to access real-time data anytime from anywhere in the world.”

Working with partners like Source Trace provides NEI with the forward-looking technology that will continue to make us a leading provider of the highest quality vanilla available on the world market.

sourcetrace-logo

March Cyclone in Madagascar

Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Madagascar as they recover from the Tropical Cyclone Enawo that hit the island in early March. It was a very powerful storm, and the due to the remote nature of the areas hardest hit an accurate assessment of the impact is difficult.

cyclone

The storm hit directly in the country’s primary vanilla-producing region, and this has created wild speculation on the future price of vanilla which has been rising over the last year. The immediate impact has been the increasing prices of vanilla in the global market, in part because of concerns that the beans salvaged from the storm will be brought prematurely to market.

For Natural Extracts Industries, Ltd. and the farmers in our network, there has been an impact as well. The farmers have been inundated with requests to purchase vanilla pods, and this drives up the cost of our raw vanilla as well.

We would like to assure all our customers that we will continue to source, process and cure only the highest quality of vanilla to maintain the integrity of our products. Until we can assess the long-term impact of the situation, we will continue to supply the customers who have been supporting our mission and our farmers.

Please take a moment to read further these reports about the storm, and its impact on Madagascar.

Featured photo: Tropical Cyclone “Enawo on March 3, 2017. Credit: NASA/NOAA/DoD Suomi NPP/VIIRS

What Do Seaweed and Vanilla Have in Common?

Depending on the time of day you are relaxing on the shores of Paje, Zanzibar you may see some very different settings.

When the tide is high, the beach feels busier. You can hear music from a close by restaurant, waves crashing and children playing. The water may come up to only a few meters away from your beach towel, and to your right, you can see dozens of kite surfers!

When the tide retreats the beach is a whole new place. People leave the beach to find their hotel pools, and the atmosphere becomes peaceful and calm. You no longer hear the waves because the water is so far away. You can walk 40 minutes out into the ocean, where the water would have once been as high as your shoulders.

Among this peacefulness, you will notice something strange out where the water was once a few feet deep. Perfectly lined sticks poke up from the sand. seaweed-farm

This is where the Seaweed Center grows their seaweed! When the tide is low, they are able to go out and collect the Eucheuma Spinosum, the particular type of red seaweed used in their very special products! The seaweed has many natural health benefits like antioxidants, antibacterial and antiviral properties, high levels of vitamin E, as well as being a natural source of collagen.

collect

The Seaweed Center uses the seaweed to make soaps, body scrubs, body oils and even juice. (The scrubs smell heavenly!)You can stop by their beautiful store/production facilities to buy their products or get a tour! You get to learn how they make their natural soap and even join them to harvest the seaweed.

soap

We think the Seaweed Center is excellent because they believe in supporting their community, sourcing organic and local materials in Tanzanian and using high-quality ingredients, just like NEI! They began 2013, and they have lots more plans for the future!

Check out their Facebook and definitely drop by to see them if you are in Zanzibar!

 

Get To Know NEI – Jeanne

After spending the last few years in Thailand and Myanmar working on social enterprises Jeanne joined our team as the VP, Business Development driving the strategy to build the Epicurious Hedgehog brand in East and South Africa.  She brings experience from years of working at startups in US technology companies.

“What I love most about my job is meeting the farmers and their families and seeing the impact of a sustainable business model that respects both people and the earth.”

When she’s not in the office she can be found exploring the vast ecosystem that surrounds Kilimanjaro and getting out on game drives to see the animals in their natural habitat.  Her favorite African animal?  The warthog because they have such quirky personalities.

Easiest way to travel?

THROUGH FOOD!

NEI is excited to welcome  Ingrédients du Monde to our distribution family! They are an online store that sells premium cooking ingredients from all around the world, and now they carry our premium Tanzanian vanilla as well! They have been distributing international flavours for 24 years, focusing in France, Netherlands and Belgium.

Feel like walking the streets of Italy? Order high-quality olive oil to your home!

Want to see the sun rise from the top of mount Kilimanjaro? You can get premium vanilla, grown on the slopes of Kilimanjaro, sent to your house!

Dream of running on the Great Wall of China? Chinese 5 spice can easily be yours from Ingrédients du Monde!

They have lots of products to choose from!

 

Sometimes trying a new style of cooking can be as daunting as travelling to a new place, but you need to start somewhere, we encourage to check out Ingrédients du Monde!

Hedgehog in the Kitchen

In case you haven’t gotten enough of holiday baking here is another recipe! This one is great because the orange lightens the flavour of the cookie, which is nice after heavy flavours of the holiday season. Enjoy!!

Yummy Orange Chocolate Chip Cookies! 

Ingredients: Yields 4 dozen

  • 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon Epicurious Hedgehog vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoons Epicurious Hedgehog orange extract
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 1 cup milk chocolate chips
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat; set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In another bowl, beat butter and sugars on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until well combined. Beat in vanilla, orange extract and orange zest until well combined. Gradually add flour mixture to the sugar mixture at low speed, beating just until incorporated.

Gently fold in the chocolate chips. Drop tablespoons of batter onto prepared baking sheet. Place into oven and bake until outside is crackly but the center is still moist, about 9-11 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.

Check our website for more recipes!

Creating Shared Value Nestle Award!

This past July, the NEI team had the pleasure of attending the Nestlé Global Forum ceremony (which was held in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, but broadcasted in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania) as a feature for the winning prize: Creating Shared Value 2016.

With a goal of investing in sustainable development in Africa, Nestlé Global comes together yearly by bringing together businesses, civil society and government leaders from Africa to discuss key topics affecting the continent. As a part of this Forum, an award entitled ‘Creating Shared Value’ is awarded and of the 400 African social enterprises, only two were granted the prize; Natural Extracts Industries Ltd. of Tanzania being one of them.

Essentially, the goal was to help lead nutrition and health through collaboration, understand the needs of smallholder farmers, implement responsible sourcing in supply chain and address gender balance in the workforce, amongst many other aspects of development. It is therefore, a wonderful accomplishment for NEI to receive such recognition! Bravo!

Screen Shot 2016-07-28 at 11.59.28 AM
Jeanne Bruns – VP of Business Development and two of NEI’s Champion Farmers at the Nestlé 2016 Global Forum in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania