Vanilla - an orchid that creates happiness

vanilla

The smell and taste that everyone knows - vanilla! I really like this smell and taste. Vanilla ice cream is one of my favorites.

What is Vanilla? How is it obtained and where is it used? - Let's look at it in this excavation.

I like the scent of vanilla, but I don't have a scent that grows, so I wear vanilla extract.

/ Evan Rachel Wood /

Vanilla

Vanilla is a spice derived from orchids of the genus Vanilla, which is mainly obtained from the flat-leaf vanilla pods of the Mexican species. The word vanilla comes from the Spanish word "fault" (meaning shell or pod) and is simply translated as "small pod".

Vanilla is the second most expensive spice after saffron, because growing vanilla seeds is labor-intensive. However, vanilla is widely used in both commercial and household baking, perfume production and aromatherapy.

Vanilla, how did it come about?

Pollination is necessary for the plants to produce fruit from which vanilla spice is obtained. In 1837, the Belgian botanist Charles François Antoine Morrens discovered this fact and introduced the method of artificial pollination of plants. The method proved to be financially unfeasible and was not used commercially. 

In 1841, Edmond Albius, a 12-year-old enslaved child living on the French island of Réunion in the Indian Ocean, discovered that the plant could be pollinated by hand. Hand pollination allowed the plant to be cultivated globally. The prominent French botanist and plant collector Jean-Michel Claude Richard falsely claimed to have discovered the technique three or four years earlier. Until the end of the 20th century, Albius was considered the true discoverer.

There are currently three main species of vanilla grown worldwide, all derived from species originally found in Mesoamerica, including parts of modern Mexico:

  • Vanilla Planifoliagrown in Madagascar, Réunion and other tropical areas along the Indian Ocean; 
  • Vanilla Tahitensis, grown in the South Pacific;
  • Vanilla Pomponfound in the West Indies, Central and South America. 

History of Vanilla

According to popular belief, the totonaki who lived on the east coast of Mexico, in the present state of Veracruz, were one of the first people to cultivate vanilla during the Aztec Empire (around the 15th century).

The Aztecs, who invaded the central highlands of Mexico, conquered the totonacs and developed vanilla. They called the fruit tlilksočitlu or "black flower" in the name of a ripe fruit that shrinks and turns black shortly after harvest. The Spanish conquistador Hernáns Kortess was recognized as an importer of both vanilla and chocolate in Europe in the 1520s.

Until the middle of the 19th century, Mexico was the main producer of vanilla. In 1819, French businessmen sent vanilla fruit to Réunion and Mauritius, hoping to produce vanilla there. After 1841, when Edmond Albius discovered how to quickly pollinate flowers by hand, the pods began to flourish. Soon tropical orchids were sent from the Reunion to the Comoros, the Seychelles and Madagascar, along with instructions for pollination. 

By 1898, Madagascar, Réunion and the Comoros accounted for about 80% of world production that year. 

According to the 2019 Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Madagascar, followed by Indonesia, was the largest producer of vanilla in 2018.

After the tropical cyclone devastated the main arable lands, the market price of vanilla rose sharply in the late 1970s and remained high until the early 80s, despite the introduction of Indonesian vanilla. 

In the mid-80s, the cartel that controlled the prices and distribution of vanilla since its inception in 1930 collapsed. Over the next few years, prices fell by 70%; prices rose sharply again after a tropical cyclone hit Madagascar in April 2000 Hudah.

Vanilla products

Vanilla sugar

vanilla sugar

More expensive vanilla sugars are a combination of ground vanilla pods and vanillin mixed with sugar in certain proportions. Great if you only have ground vanilla pods and sugar. 

Vanilla extract

vanilla extract

Vanilla extract and vanilla essence are one and the same. Vanilla extract is obtained from vanilla pods. Due to the fact that the vanilla extract is obtained from the pods themselves, it is made up of natural vanilla flavor elements in very high concentrations.

Vanillin

vanillin

Vanillin is a synthetic substance - a white crystalline powder with a strong aroma and sharp taste. Cheap vanillin sugar is vanillin mixed with sugar in a ratio of 1: 100. Less commonly, vanillin can be purchased neat, but it should be used with caution and a knife tip is usually sufficient. If added too much, the food becomes bitter, with a sharp, unpleasant taste.

Vanilla pods

vanilla pod

A high-quality vanilla pod is almost black, shiny and oily, but if it is hard and matte, it means that it is not properly dried, so it has lost some of its aroma. It is better not to use it, because there will be no expected effect. To prevent the vanilla pod from losing its special aroma, it is not recommended to store it in the refrigerator or freeze it.

Interesting facts about vanilla

  • About 95% of 'vanilla' products are artificially flavored with vanillin derived from lignin instead of vanilla fruit.
  • Vanilla grows like a vine, climbing an existing tree (also called a grower), pole or other support. It can be grown in a tree (on trees), in a plantation (on trees or poles) or in a 'shade', increasing productivity.
  • Many flowers open in pairs at a time and bloom one day during the flowering season, which lasts about two months. 
  • Due to their delicate structure, flowers can only be naturally pollinated by a few small bees and hummingbirds; in areas outside the pollinator range, the flowers are artificially pollinated with a wooden needle as soon as they open. 
  • The colors of the flowers vary from light green to yellow to creamy white.
  • The fruit is a long capsule that reaches a length of about 20 cm (8 inches) in 4 to 6 weeks. As soon as they turn golden green at the base, the immature pods are removed.
  • Fresh vanilla beans have no taste or aroma. They have to undergo an extensive canning process, which releases vanillin with its distinctive aroma and taste.
  • The smell of vanilla is believed to affect the brain and create peace.
  • Natural vanilla extract contains many antioxidants, including vanillic acid and vanillin. Antioxidants protect your body from damage by harmful components such as free radicals and toxins.
  • Some studies have shown that vanilla is a means of losing weight due to its appetite suppressant properties.
  • Most of the world's vanilla is a species of vanilla Planifolia, better known as Bourbon vanilla or Madagascar vanilla.

How to make vanilla extract?

vanilla

Ingredients, about 50 ml of vanilla extract:

  • 2 vanilla pods
  • 50 g sugar
  • 100 ml of water

Preparation:

  1. Cut the vanilla pods lengthwise and remove the seeds.
  2. Heat the sugar in a pan over low heat until it gets a golden brown hue. Add water, vanilla seeds and vanilla pods and cook for about 5-7 minutes. on low heat. Then remove the vanilla pods.
  3. Pour the vanilla extract into a sterile container, close it and allow to cool.

After pouring into clean bottles, the extract should be stored in a cool, dark place for several weeks. When preparing the extract, always use clean spoons to prevent bacteria from entering it. Enjoy your meal!

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