Vanilla planifolia Andr.

The vanilla plant is a climbing orchid that grows up trees and posts. It takes a vanilla plant four years to bear its first fruits. The unripe fruits are picked just before they split open, exposed to several cycles of hot steam and then dried. This process helps them develop their characteristic colour and flavour, which comes from the vanillin they contain. Vanilla beans are dark brown, flat, flexible and about 20 centimetres long. The best vanilla beans are packaged in sealed glass tubes to preserve their exquisite aroma.

Countries of origin

Madagascar, Réunion (Bourbon vanilla), Seychelles, Tahiti, Sri Lanka, Java, Comoro Islands, Hawaii, Guatemala, Mexico, Martinique
Vanilla is native to Mexico. The Aztecs spiced their chocolate drinks with it and even used vanilla beans to pay taxes. The Spanish monopolised the Mexican vanilla trade for over 300 years. Not until 1864 did the French succeed in growing vanilla on European soil. Today, the major regions of cultivation are Central America and Tahiti. Small quantities are also grown in other tropical areas.

Flavour and aroma

Vanilla has a pleasantly intense aroma and a strong, sweet and spicy flavour. Milk and cream dishes, fruits, backed goods, mixed drinks and much more Vanilla enhances the aroma of all sweet dishes. It fully develops its exquisite aroma in puddings, dessert sauces, and fruit, rice and yoghurt dishes. Compotes, marmalades, pie fillings, liqueurs and, of course, hot-chocolate and other chocolate drinks acquire a fuller, more balanced aroma when seasoned with vanilla. Used in small quantities, the dark bean is also suitable for flavouring savoury poultry and veal dishes, or for aromatising rice. Incidentally, vanillin is not a substitute for real vanilla, because vanillin is only one aroma component among several. A majority of the worldwide harvest goes to the cosmetics industry for use in perfume.

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