Vanilla is one of those powerful ingredients that we use all the time, but probably take for granted. Used in ice cream, cakes and more, the story of this ingredient is far from boring. What is vanilla made from?
But as ubiquitous as vanilla is, its origin is not known to everyone. Do you know what vanilla is made from?
The vanilla origin story is anything but boring.
What is vanilla made from? This comes from a plant
Vanilla comes from orchids of the genus Vanilla. While the major species of vanilla orchids are now cultivated worldwide, they originally came from Mesoamerica, including parts of modern Mexico and Guatemala.
The vanilla orchid is a vine-like plant that grows on trees.
The vine can grow up to 10 meters long.
The most used orchid for vanilla production is Vanilla planifolia.
Vanilla planifoliaor Flat-leaf Vanilla, is the only orchid used for industrial food production.
What part of the plant is used?
The part of the plant that is used is the pod.
The vanilla pod is often referred to as the bean. The pods are picked when they are not yet ripe, then immersed in hot water and dried for two to six months.
The vanilla pod contains thousands of tiny black seeds.
Although these pods can be very expensive, scraping them gives a strong vanilla flavor and black dots that will color any cake. Definitely worth the price.
Vanilla extract comes from macerating vanilla beans and mixing them with water and alcohol.
It is the most commonly bought form of vanilla and much cheaper than vanilla beans.
What is vanilla made from? From a plant that needs special conditions
Vanilla can only grow 10-20 degrees north and south of the equator.
Seventy-five percent of the vanilla on the market today comes from vanilla plants in Madagascar and Réunion Island. It is commonly known as Bourbon vanilla, named after the island of Réunion, which was originally called Île Bourbon.
The rest of the world’s vanilla crop comes from Mexico and Tahiti.
Vanilla from these countries is much harder to obtain. Mexican vanilla is said to be smoother, darker and more aromatic than Madagascar vanilla, and Tahitian vanilla is said to have more floral notes.
How much does this spice cost?
Vanilla is the second most expensive spice after saffron.
As with saffron, it takes a lot of work to produce vanilla. For vanilla orchids to produce pods, the plant must be pollinated by hummingbirds or a certain species of bee native to Central America. In addition, the flowers are only open for a short time. Therefore, in order to harvest vanilla commercially, the plants must be pollinated by hand, explains HuffPost.