cola nut/vanilla bean

its been a very long time since i’ve been right about anything so i hope i receive answers that support my position in an ongoing argument with a friend.

Is there such a thing as a cola nut?
Does it grow on a bush or a tree?
where can they be found?
Where do vanilla beans grow?
Can i grow them on my porch?
And as long as I have your attention…
Is there a chocolate bean?

i understand that these are all straightforward questions that have straightforward answers that dont lend themselves to debate but i can’t seem to find definitive answers anywhere.

Cola nuts do grow on trees and I think that they are found in South America. Cocoa beans also grow on trees, originally in Central America but widely grown now. Vanilla also grows on trees, but I’m not sure of its original source.

Interesting trivia, the bottle design of Coca-Cola is based on the shape of the cocoa bean, it seems that there was a spelling or pronunciation issue and instead of looking up coca, the guy looked up cocoa. So the coke bottle is based on the chocolate bean.

Kola nuts come from an African tree, cocoa beans come from an American tree, and vanilla beans come from an American orchid, and the only edible orchid, too. So sez “Webster’s New Collegiate.”

I don’t think vanilla grows on trees. IIRC it is actually a type of orchid. The flavoring comes from the seed pods produced by the plant. It’s tropical and grows in Mexico, South America, Jamaica and such places.

adam yax reports:

Interesting, perhaps, but highly unlikely. The Coca Cola web site gives this explanation:

The shape and design of the contour bottle for Coca-Cola is also a U.S. registered trademark, one of the few package designs to receive this distinction. The bottle was designed in 1915 by Alexander Samuelson, an employee of the Root Glass Company of Indiana. Legend suggests that the bottle was shaped deliberately to resemble the fashionable hobble skirt.

All you ever wanted to know about cocoa beans:

Here’s what Encarta has to say about kola beans:

And Encarta on vanilla beans:

Chocolate: comes from the rainforest tree Theobroma cacao. It’s a member of the sterculiaceae family which also includes Cola nut. It comes from lower and montane rainforests of Central and South America. This means it likes heat and humidity. It would never survive outside in any places but tropical zones (year round). The tree actually flowers along branches and its trunk. In each pod there is about 50 seeds surrounded by a sweet pulp. The beans are actually seeds. I hear they can be grown indoors and will fruit (polination is by midges) but the flower isn’t self polinating.

Cola: comes from the trees Cola nitida, and C. acuminata. It originates in West Africa, but is naturalized in many tropical countries. It’s used as an appetite and thirst suppresant. Like chocolate, it’s in the sterculiaceae family, and probably requires warm temperatures year round.

Vanilla: comes from the Vanilla orchid, Vanilla planifolia (synonyms: V. fragrans, V. vanilla). They dont start producing fruits until they mature, which is when they are larger than 10 feet (IIRC, they behave like climbing vines). The flowers are small and greenish, about 2 inches long. The vanilla flavor comes from the fermented and cured seed pods. The pods contain thousands of seeds (which is why vanilla ice cream made with vanilla beans has blackish specks). There are 60 species in the Vanilla genus, all in tropical areas. One even grows in Florida. You can grow this in a green house but space is a limiting factor.
Basically it’s not really worth trying to produce your own drinks, candy and flavorings from these plants because of the processing and climates they need ;).

I think the coolest exhibit in a botanical garden that I have ever seen is here in Washington, DC. They have a vanilla plant growing up and around a cacao tree. Priceless.