The bulk of the world’s supply of vanilla today is provided by Madagascar, Mexico and Tahiti and interestingly, vanilla is the second most expensive spice after saffron because growing the seed pods is very labor-intensive. Vanilla orchids bloom only for a day, sometimes less, and during that time they must be hand-pollinated. After that the pods must be watched daily to collect the ripened ones otherwise the taste may be compromised. After harvest, the pods go through an elaborate process of being killed, sweated, dried, and conditioned in order to maximize the vanilla flavor and fragrance. The mature bean shrivels and turns black shortly after it is picked which is how we find our vanilla pods in the grocery store.
Vanilla is most commonly used for producing sweet, delicate extracts and flavors. It comes in two forms: the more subtle flavor of the vanilla bean and vanilla extract–the best is Pure vanilla extract. Many gourmet chefs insist that true vanilla flavor can only be derived from the pod itself which is why you will find many recipes that call for splitting open a vanilla bean lengthwise and scraping out the vanilla seeds. Click here to learn how to scrape out a vanilla bean.
Some of our Favorite Vanilla Recipes:
One of my all time favorite recipes that uses vanilla as a main ingredient is creme brulee. You can’t help but relish each moment this sublime creamy creation teases your senses with its stimulating texture, flavor and enticing aroma.