Vanilla is one of the world’s favourite spices. Its unique taste and wonderful aroma have the power to transform any dish into the ultimate foodie delight. But that is something you probably already knew. At Native Vanilla, we are endlessly fascinated about everything and all things vanilla, and very passionate about sharing our expert knowledge on this remarkable plant and offering people who are looking for vanilla beans for sale, ethically sourced vanilla beans. So, here is the inside scoop on vanilla.
The term ‘vanilla’ is a multi-purpose one. It refers to the vanilla plant itself, as well as the flavor and the scent that is associated with the seed pods and flowers of the humble vanilla plant. We all know that vanilla has a distinctly sweet, floral flavor and aroma and can be found in everything from baked goods and candles to perfume and haute-cuisine and even cigars.
All-natural vanilla comes from the vanilla orchid – a plant that is native to Mexico and other areas of Central America. Throughout the centuries, the popularity of vanilla has boomed considerably, and this humble orchid has found its way around the world.
Where you won’t find this orchid, is in the windowsill of any home. They are especially difficult to cultivate because they require a precise tropical climate with year-round warm temperatures and plenty of rain.
Did you know that there are more than 35 000 species of orchid? But only vanilla can be eaten by humans. Every vanilla orchid blooms into a magnificent flower for only one day and If it is not pollinated, no seed pod will form. In Mexico, the pollination takes place via a stingless black bee and a rare kind of hummingbird that evolved over time alongside the vanilla orchid. Due to the fact that the majority of vanilla is produced outside of Mexico and in places where there are no natural pollinators, it requires a time consuming and precise hand pollination technique to make sure that the seed pods form.
Vanilla is an air plant that wraps itself around a host tree or a man-made structure. Its nutrients and water come from the air and not parasitically from the host plant. A minimum of five years for a vanilla orchid to start flowering and producing seed pods are needed. You cannot rush perfection, can you?
The seed pods are the fruit of the vanilla. Long, tube-shaped “beans” or “pods” house thousands of tiny black seeds, packed full of vanillin. Which beckons the question – What is Vanillin then?
Vanillin is the real star of this show – it is a flavor compound that gives vanilla its distinct taste. Vanillin is also found in many other types of plants (like tree bark and cloves), but it is vanilla that has the highest concentration of this flavor compound
Vanilla flavor and scent are used in everything from baked goods, perfumes, ice cream, air fresheners, cigars, candles and much more. It has a soothing aroma and many people say it reminds them of their favourite memories from childhood.
There is a reason why vanilla is so highly prized by Michelin star chefs and home cooks alike —it is a complex flavor and at the same time, a simple one. You know immediately when you are eating food flavored with vanilla. Your taste buds light up when they touch this special gift from Mother Nature. No wonder it is one of the world’s most popular flavors!