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Vanilla Beans is one of the world's most commonly used spices. Vanilla is a sweet spice derived from Orchids of the family tree orchid, typically obtained from pods of this species of tree. The spelling vanilla is derived from the diminutive size of the word vanilla, the Spanish word vanilla, which is translated as "little flower". In addition, this lovely spice is also related to nutmeg and cinnamon. 

Vanilla beans, being a tropical fruit, are native to Mexico, where they are used in tequila, mexicana, Mexican cuisine, cakes, cookies, ice cream and more. It is now grown throughout the world. Vanilla flavoring is taken from several strains of Orchids and includes African, Asian and European species. These differ in shape and size, thus, resulting in a wide variety of bean size and flavor. It is also believed that vanilla beans were originally from Africa and were used as early as during the tombs of Egyptian pharaohs. 

Today, vanilla beans are processed into two primary products - vanilla extracts and vanilla flavorings. Vanilla flavorings consist of essential oils, vanillin, a sugar derived from the sugar cane; and various synthetic chemical compounds. The majority of vanillin is derived from yeast. Vanilla extract is obtained from the bean, while the sugar added results from lactose. Therefore, it can be said that Vanilla Beans themselves is the pure source of Vanilla Extract.

The aroma from Vanilla Beans comes from vanillin, which is actually a combination of vapors emitted during the burning of vanilla beans. Several varieties of Vanilla Beans are grown in different parts of the world. In North America, the largest number of Vanilla Beans is located in California. There are two distinct varieties of vanilla beans pod - dark and light roasted.

Besides the dried beans, vanilla pods are also utilized in the preparation of confections, ice creams, marshmallows, salsas and drinks like V-apo-Ritas. While most flavors of Vanilla Beans are created by the roasting process, some even retain a slight aroma from the roasted beans. For example, Mexican Vanilla Beans (also called Spanish Vanilla) retain a bit of their aroma when ground, but not enough to maintain its unique flavor. On the other hand, Mexican Vanilla Pods is very dry and has almost no smell of any kind.

Vanilla Extract is now widely used in a large range of products including desserts, candies, beverages and even cosmetics. Vanilla Flavoring is also a key ingredient in culinary creations like gumbo and stews. It is said that the French invented Vanilla Extract, because the ancient Greeks had discovered the medicinal properties of vanilla during their raids on the Italian coast. The two ingredients combine to make a delightful and luscious blend that will surely please everyone who tries it.




Vanilla Extract - An Inimitable Flavor That Will Leave You Spellbound