Vanilla: 7 therapeutic properties & recipes

Vanilla: 7 therapeutic properties & recipes

The vanilla aroma is the best known ever. The fruits that generate it belong to some species of orchids originating in Mexico. These are pods which, in order to take on the known aromatic characteristics, must undergo a meticulous and sophisticated manufacturing process .

The history of vanilla is as fascinating as the procedures that are followed to bring vanilla beans to refinement and drying. But, the so famous aroma also has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. Its compounds can help in the inhibition of some tumor formations and have antioxidant effects. Furthermore, the anti-inflammatory action together with the aromatic component predispose to relaxation and to eliminate forms of stress and anxiety that push away depressive states. In addition, It has also always had aphrodisiac properties .

Natural vanilla is now considered a true gastronomic luxury. Currently, in the kitchen, vanilla is almost exclusively used as a flavoring for the production of desserts and there are many vanilla desserts. For example, vanilla extract, vanilla pudding and creams, but also ice cream and cakes.

However, in nutrition, as well as in many other sectors in which its use is foreseen, such as perfumery, cosmetics and pharmacology, it has been supplanted by the chemical reproduction of its most important essential aromatic principle, vanillin .

Vanilla: what it is

Vanilla planifolia is the most important of the 110 species of plants belonging to the Vanilla genus grouped in the Orchidaceae family. The name Vanilla derives from the Spanish ” vania “, meaning either sheath or pod and ” illa ” which stands for small.

It is known to all for the production of pods from which the highly perfumed aromatic component is obtained through a special treatment . The natural vanilla flavor is made up of a complex blend of over 200 flavoring compounds that develop from seasoned pods.

In addition to Vanilla planifolia , there are two other species from which the aromatic component can be obtained.

  • Vanilla x-tahitensis : Polynesian species of vanilla. But, its production is very limited. It has a high level of quality and an aroma quite different from V. planifolia, it is very fragrant and with notes reminiscent of anise.
  • Vanilla pompona : cultivated in the West Indies, but this is not very resistant and the pods have normally lower quality levels.

Its plant is native to the central eastern Mexican area occupied by the States Veracruz, Puebla Tlaxcala and Hidalgo, where the ideal habitat for its spontaneous growth is found. In particular, the region of Papantla (Veracruz) is the most important region where the first cultivation of vanilla for industrial purposes originated. It is located at an altitude of 100 meters above sea level . with a temperature between 20 ° and 40 ° and with an annual rainfall height of about 1600 mm.

Vanilla beans

A mature plant produces around one hundred pods per year.

But, contrary to what one might imagine, the pods do not emit the classic aromatic odor, on the contrary they emit a slight unpleasant bitter smell . The pods are grown for almost as long as necessary for their vegetative development of about 9 months, until they reach a length of 10-12 centimeters.

Then, only then are they collected, still green and unripe, to be sent to the manufacturing process that will allow them to acquire the desired fragrance. If they were fully matured, the pods would open, releasing the seeds, which however do not germinate. In fact, vanilla only reproduces by cutting.

Different methods can be used to process pods and each of these allows different aromas to be obtained from the pods. However, all methods involve the activation of a series of chemical, enzymatic and oxidation processes on the pod.

Bourbon vanilla beans

Vanilla connoisseurs consider the so-called “Bourbon” method to be among the best.

This process takes its name from the Bourbon island, which is the name with which in ancient times it was called the island of La Réunion. It is practiced in Madagascar and in the nearby cultivation areas, including La Réunion and Comoros.

Vanilla: botany

Vanilla is a climber with a liana-like habit. It has a slender green and supple cylindrical stem with few branches. It develops adventitious roots with which it anchors itself to the surrounding surfaces or vegetation.

The leaves are large and reach about 15 cm in length and about 5 cm in width. They have an oval-lanceolate shape, with the terminal tip slightly sharp. They are positioned individually at each node of the stem and alternate with each other. Both the leaves and the stem contain a stinging sap when placed in contact with the skin. The stem climbs well beyond 10 m in height and the plant blooms only when it has reached at least 3 m in length, that is, after about 3 years.

The plant will then continue to bloom and produce for at least ten years.

Vanilla flowers

They are not very large, on average 5 cm, have a white-yellowish or light yellow-greenish color. They are grouped in inflorescences of eight to ten units and usually do not bloom all together, but only one or two at a time during the three-month flowering period. The most important and decisive characteristic is that the flowers open for a single day, from morning to evening: that is the time necessary for their pollination. The flower in nature is self-fertile, but it is not able to pollinate itself and needs the intervention of a pollinator.

The natural pollinators of these flowers are hummingbirds and an insect of the genus Melipona, the abeja de monte , a species of bee without a sting that lives only in the lands of the ancient Totonac, the heirs of the Mexican Atzec civilization.

Artificial pollination

Therefore, in the absence of pollinators, artificial pollination is used, according to the manual method, still in use, invented in 1841, at the age of 12, by Edmond Albius. It is an easy operation at first sight , which is performed with a pointed bamboo stick and a simple gesture of the thumb to make sure that the pollen comes into contact with the stigma.

But, after the fateful day, the flowers, if not fertilized, no longer open and fall after a few days. Instead, the fertilized ones continue their maturation forming the pods from which the precious aroma is obtained .

Usually the success of pollination is 50%.

In transplantation in areas other than the original ones, the biggest problem is precisely that of pollination . In fact, since we cannot have the natural pollinators, we need to resort to the constant and expensive assistance of staff who are required to check the plant opening moment after plant and intervene with pollination activating the fertilization and therefore the growth of the pod.

Vanilla: nutritional properties

During the processing of pods there are many biotransformation processes that are provoked. In fact, intrinsic enzymes present in the pods come into play, as well as, according to the latest investigations, colonies of microorganisms present on the fruit surface.

Considering that the aromatic part is located inside the pod, and that it is taken with a slight scraping with the blade of a knife, it is clear that the attention towards the product cannot be of a strictly nutritional nature, which has little effect on the whole . Instead, interest must be placed towards the essential part of vanilla and towards those aromatic substances that characterize its properties.

However, the aromatic components vary according to the species, the cultivation areas and the processing and drying methods used.

Vanilla: therapeutic properties

Antioxidant

Therefore, the intake of vanilla and, even more, of its essential extracts allows the body to benefit from the antioxidant properties of some of the substances contained in them. They are the known “free radicals”. The antioxidant compounds of it have been studied and it has been observed that they can slow down and delay the harmful effects of oxidation and the consequent appearance of the signs of old age, from the banal appearance of wrinkles in the skin to hair loss.

Vanillin

In another research, the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and anticancer properties of vanillin have been studied in relation to the suppression and inhibition of certain types of cancer and neurodegenerative diseases.

But, in particular, It has been studied for the strong compatibility in the bond it establishes with a protein kinase (called CAMKIV) that intervenes in these diseases. Therefore, vanillin would constitute an anticancer agent since, through this bond, it inhibits the proliferation of human hepatocyte carcinoma cells and neuroblastoma.

Furthermore, treatment with vanillin induced antioxidant activities that led to favoring the process of apoptosis in cancer cells. The results of these researches offer ample space for a new therapeutic approach with a natural product such as vanilla and its derivative from the minimal side effect.

Natural anti-inflammatory

The vanillin is the major phenolic compound of vanilla on the market and is a flavoring agent among the most popular around the world, especially in foods and beverages . Furthermore, in consideration of the safety that its food use has for public health, vanillin has been the subject of exploration and study.

Its value as an anti-inflammatory agent has been highlighted . In fact, it has shown that it can significantly suppress the expression of inflammatory cytokines, mediators and inflammasomes.

Furthermore, it has been confirmed that vanillin is able to effectively attenuate the inflammatory response by regulating the expression of intracellular signaling pathways in cells.

Combats infections, fever and flu

The alcoholic vanilla extract has resulted from recent research as a valid natural antiseptic capable of inhibiting the development and multiplication of infectious or pathogenic microorganisms that can cause infections.

The extract has demonstrated in vitro antibacterial properties against:

  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa : Gram-negative bacterium, which mainly affects people with low immune defenses
  • Enterobacter aerogenes , Escherichia coli and Proteus vulgaris , three Gram-negative bacteria that most commonly affect urinary tract diseases and normally reside in the intestine.

Furthermore, vegetable essential oils, such as vanilla in particular, contain complex natural compounds to protect themselves against infections produced by bacteria, fungi and viruses.

Antidepressant, anti stress and against insomnia

The anti-inflammatory properties of vanilla would also be able to exert an effect on anxiety and depressive states, reducing their effects.

According to one study, the beneficial effect is due to its anti-inflammatory property . Therefore, the food consumption of products such as vanilla can contribute in a completely natural way to improve those most common inflammatory phenomena caused by:

  • anxiety
  • stress
  • infections
  • nutritional deficiencies
  • sedentary lifestyles.

The result, when combined with better lifestyles, exercise and correct nutritional behaviors, is:

  • improve mood
  • reduce the onset of depressive states
  • favor the regulation of the sleep-wake cycle.
digestive

It has stimulating properties on the gastric system and can be used, alone or associated with other spices, in lack of appetite, dyspepsias and gastrointestinal atony.

Aphrodisiac properties

Folk medicine attributes vanilla to aphrodisiac qualities , which, however, would not be confirmed, but not even denied by scientific evidence. In fact, since the times when the natives in the places of origin had discovered its use, vanilla enjoyed this virtuous reputation.

Recent studies have linked vanilla scent with an action that would appear to actually cause olfactory stimulation for the production of pheromones. In fact, sensory experience is likely to provoke reactions that recall the satisfaction of appetizing foods and pleasant olfactory memories capable of determining a euphoric state predisposing to the sexual act .

Thus, the stimulation of libido by the aroma of vanilla would generate, among other things, a natural antidepressant effect , which would be associated with the composition of molecules very similar to human pheromones.

Contraindications

Vanilla has no particular contraindications. It is generally a product used in very small proportions and cases of hypersensitivity to it are rare.

However, vanilla extract for external use, if applied at high concentration levels, could cause dermatitis and skin reactions. Furthermore, a very prolonged excessive exposure to vanilla can cause the effects of the so-called “vanillism” which causes a series of skin disorders such as:

  • eruptions
  • edema
  • itch
  • desquamation
  • genitourinary irritations
  • headache
  • dizziness.

But, this situation is an extreme case . In fact, the food toxicity of natural vanillin is very low , in consideration of the doses at which it is usually used, and can be considered completely negligible.

Synthetic vanillin

Instead, the use of vanillin, the main aromatic constituent of vanilla, obtained synthetically, deserves a different treatment.

This substance can be obtained chemically or extracted from other sources than vanilla, to be used as a flavoring in place of natural vanilla . In fact, synthetic vanillin is less expensive and obviously does not have the same aromatic complexity and variability as natural vanilla.

But even in the synthetic vanillin trade there are cost differences depending on the degree of purity. For this reason, attention must be paid to vanillin which is too cheap. In fact, this could be not well purified and present unwanted or even dangerous substances and aromas for health.

Finally, according to the studies carried out by Caujolle and Meynier, the use of synthetic vanillin and ethyl-vanillin, in place of natural vanillin and vanilla extracts, does not offer any inconvenience provided that industrial products are carefully purified in order to remove impurities represented by more toxic substances, such as orthvanillins and m-aldehydes.

Vanilla beans and Tonka beans

In the case of whole pods, the most classic of sophistications is the use of Tonka beans or some species of non-precious orchids, but also cherry bark and St. John’s wort.

In addition, Tonka beans, among other things, would be dangerous to health as they are very rich in coumarin , a substance that causes liver damage and for this reason it is banned from food use in the United States .

But, it is evident that the high cost of natural vanilla allows high profits to those who deal with fake or adulterated products.

Vanilla: how to use

In the food sector, vanilla is used as a flavoring almost exclusively for desserts, creams, drinks and liqueurs.

But, it is also used as a flavoring for pharmacological products , cosmetics and hygiene products. The industry, including the confectionery industry, makes extensive use of it.

The consumption of vanilla flavoring is widespread all over the world, but pods are not used in all homes. Cheaper products are often preferred, such as extracts, vanilla powder or vanillin.

How to use vanilla beans

But knowing how to use the vanilla pod correctly is not a foregone conclusion : a simple but fundamental procedure must be followed.

The pod must be cut longitudinally in the central part so that the internal aromatic part can be removed. Therefore, to do this, the soft part where the seeds that make up the substance rich in aroma must be scraped with the tip of a knife and always lengthwise . This can be used directly in the preparation you intend to make and cook.

Therefore, the aromatic part should be dosed according to your tastes, bearing in mind that:

  • each type of vanilla can release a more or less strong quantity of aroma , depending on the degree of quality and conservation
  • the vanilla aroma is accentuated with cooking and too intense aromatization may not be welcome
  • the outer part of the pod should not be used because it is hard and bitter
  • if vanilla sugars are also used (for example on a cake at the end of cooking) these could overlap with the aroma of natural vanilla.

How to store the vanilla bean

So, the advice is to always use a good product quality trying to avoid too long storage over time. Furthermore, to evaluate in advance the aromatic effect, it is possible to dissolve the grains a little at a time in the preparation to be flavored. For example, if you use lukewarm milk you can evaluate the result by successive approximations. Usually only a few grains are sufficient.

The remaining pod must be stored in its original glass container, which is the ideal container, and stored in a dry place and at room temperature, avoiding keeping it exposed to the air for too long.

In addition, it is preferable not to put the pod in the refrigerator , even if partially used, because it could form mold. The pod can be used several times, removing the internal part with a knife as needed.

In addition, when the vanilla stick has exhausted its precious aromatic part , it can be used for some time to perfume sugar, coffee, or loose tea in leaves, by immersing the remaining whole pod in the respective container.

Vanilla: buying guide

Vanilla can be found on the market in various forms:

  • essence
  • essential oil
  • powder
  • dried pods.

Vanilla essence

Aromatherapy makes extensive use of vanilla essence.

It is a product obtained by more or less liquid extraction from the pods on a solvent extraction support (alone or in a mixture), water, ethanol, isopropanol. The extract must have at least 2g of vanillin per kg , or 0.2% corresponding to at least 15% of the fruit’s aromatic principle. But, the product on the market hardly uses the natural product and uses synthetic aroma . Furthermore, it is better to be wary of products that do not indicate the aromatic equivalence in pods on the label .

It is believed to act effectively as a sedative. A few drops in a room diffuser gives a pleasant home scent and serenity to those who stay there.

But, the essence can also be used as a flavoring for food purposes : a few drops are enough to obtain a pleasant result.

Vanilla essential oil

It is not edible. The main aromatic part, namely vanillin, is dissolved in topical oils and is often used for massages or to perfume the environment. The antiseptic properties of vanilla tone and relieve skin irritations, revitalizing it. The aroma contributes to spreading a sweet enveloping and calming scent.

Added to the water of a hot bath, it is ideal for obtaining a pleasant relaxing effect.

Same result if added to the moisturizer or left to evaporate in the essence burner.

In addition, essential oil is a component of products dedicated to very early childhood precisely for this calming function. The oil can be used safely in diffusers or room humidifiers in rooms dedicated to children .

Vanilla powder

It is not a very easy product to find on the market, if we refer to natural vanilla powder . In addition, another chemical vanillin product is often passed off as vanilla powder . The powder is dark brown in color and has a vanillin content of approximately 2%.

pods

Pods are the best way to ensure vanilla quality.

The vanillin content of the pods varies between about 1 and 2.5%. These must be perfectly intact and kept in special long glass containers , which allow a better conservation of the vanilla. The glass tube is better sealed with a stopper also in glass or plastic, because the cork stopper , while being aesthetically beautiful, favors the development of mold.

The pod is also sold in cheaper plastic containers , but they have the drawback of letting the aromas pass and drying the vanilla. In this case, as soon as the vanilla is purchased, it is better to repackage it in an airtight glass container as soon as possible.

How to choose the vanilla bean

The pod must generally have a dark brown color and not black, but this parameter is highly variable depending on the production area and the variety. Furthermore, it must have a full and fleshy consistency , it must not be rigid, but it must be soft and elastic to the point of being able to be twisted around a finger without breaking. The surface must appear bright, but not excessively shiny or opaque. In fact, a possible opacity could indicate a preventive alcoholic treatment carried out to use part of the aromatic component, which would deplete the integrity of the fragrance.

So it is recommended not to buy pods kept exposed to the air, or broken, or fractured. But, a too dry pod shows thin reddish filaments that could reveal an incorrect preparation or an too early harvest with a lower vanillin content.

The pod must have a rounded end tip. In fact, this means that it has been harvested at the right level of ripeness before being started for processing and aging and therefore guarantees a correct aromatic level.

Finally, if it shows a sort of external whitish patina (vanille Grivè) it means that it is of excellent quality . That effect is produced by the crystallization of vanillin in small surface efflorescences. Certainly a product of this type will reserve a very pronounced and intense sweet fragrance .

Vanilla: alternative uses

Vanilla is widely used in perfumery. Beginning in the early 1800s, it was used to perfume soaps and other beauty products.

The use of vanilla in personal perfumes was Guerlain’s idea.

The well-known house launched the perfume “Jicky” on the market for the first time in 1889 . Since then it was imitated by many other perfume houses.

In cosmetics it is used in the formulation of:

  • creams
  • shower gel
  • massage oils.

In addition, pharmacology makes extensive use of it as a flavoring excipient to mask the unpleasant flavors of some active ingredients.

Vanilla: use in the kitchen

Vanilla is widely used in pastry and ice cream, in the production of creams, drinks and liqueurs.

It is added in many food products not only as an aroma but also as a flavoring corrector.

Puddings, yogurt, baked goods, fruit juices, chocolate, creamy milk, beer, tea, coffee, chamomile, herbal teas and many other products are prepared by adding the velvety scent of vanilla. In small quantities it is also sometimes added to fish sauces.

Recipes with vanilla

1- Homemade vanilla extract for desserts

Homemade vanilla extract for desserts

Ingredients

  • 50 g water
  • 50 g sugar
  • 100 ml alcohol
  • 4 vanilla beans.

INSTRUCTIONS

Pour the water and sugar into a saucepan, put it on the fire and cook for a few minutes from the boil, stirring constantly, so as to obtain a syrup.

Cool the syrup and add the alcohol.

Cut the vanilla beans in half with a sharp knife from one end to the other.

Scrape the inside with the blunt part of the blade and extract the seeds.

Transfer the seeds to an airtight glass jar. Add the vanilla beans cut into small pieces and the mixture of syrup and alcohol.

Close the jar and place the extract to macerate in a dark place for 6 months.
For the first 30 days, shake the jar every day, then every 15 days.

RECIPE NOTES

After 3 months you can already use the vanilla extract. The vanilla aroma will be more intense with complete maceration.

2 – Vanilla pudding

Vanilla pudding

Total calories: 360 / calories per person 72

Ingredients for 5 puddings

  • 500 ml skimmed or vegetable milk
  • 50 g sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 15 g agar agar.

INSTRUCTIONS

Pour the milk into a saucepan, add the sugar, mix with a whisk. Cut the vanilla bean, take the seeds and add them to the milk, add the stick too.

Then add the agar agar, mix carefully, then put the mixture on the fire and bring to the boil for a few minutes, stirring constantly.

Then turn off the heat and pour into single-portion pudding molds, leave to cool in the refrigerator for at least 5 hours.

Turn out onto serving dishes and serve with berries or the fruit you prefer.

3 – White tea with vanilla milk and bananas

 White tea with vanilla milk and bananas

Total calories: 130 / calories per person 65

Ingredients for 2 people

  • 350 ml water
  • 100 ml skim milk
  • 2 white tea bags
  • 1 banana
  • vanilla 1 stick
  • blueberries to decorate.

INSTRUCTIONS

Bring the water to a boil, turn off the heat and dip the tea bags, following the times indicated on the package (about 3-4 minutes).

Remove the tea bags, dip the vanilla stick, previously engraved, and let it cool to room temperature.

In the meantime, cut the bananas into slices, put them in the freezer for a few hours with a few blueberries. Refrigerate the vanilla tea for a few hours, until it is very cold.

Before serving, add the cold milk to the vanilla tea, mix thoroughly. Pour the milk and vanilla tea into glasses. Shape the skewers alternating frozen bananas and blueberries, dip them in the tea and serve immediately.

4- Light strawberry and vanilla ice cream without ice cream maker

Light strawberry and vanilla ice cream without ice cream maker

Total calories: 582 / calories per person 97

Ingredients for 6 people

  • 600 g strawberries already cleaned
  • 100 g sugar
  • 2 vanilla berries
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice.

INSTRUCTIONS

Put the strawberries in the mixer glass with the sugar and lemon juice and blend. Cut the vanilla pods with a knife, extract the seeds, dissolve them in the strawberry smoothie and blend again.

Transfer the mixture to a container and let it rest in the freezer for about 1 hour.

After the time, go back to the mixer to break the ice crystals and put in the freezer for 2 hours. Repeat the passage in the mixer again and let it rest for 2 hours. Blend the mixture one last time and place in the freezer.

Take the ice cream from the freezer a few minutes before serving, gently hold it to make it creamier and decorate it to taste with fresh mint leaves.

5 – Pineapple and vanilla gluten free cake

Pineapple and vanilla gluten free cake

Total calories 2850 / calories per person 285

Ingredients for 10 people

  • 565 g natural sliced ​​pineapple
  • 180 g muscovado brown sugar
  • 130 g pineapple juice
  • 60 g rice oil
  • 250 ml white low-fat yogurt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 200 g rice flour allowed
  • 70 g of potato starch allowed
  • 1 sachet baking powder allowed
  • 1 vanillin sachet allowed

Find out how to make vanilla pineapple cake .

Vanilla: history

Origin of vanilla

The vanilla plant is originally from Mexico. The populations that inhabited the area where it grows spontaneously called it tlilxochitl in the Nahuatl language, spoken in present-day central Mexico at least since the seventh century AD

It was precisely these local populations that over the centuries had refined the knowledge of the vanilla plant and above all had discovered the treatment to which the pods must be subjected to obtain their particular aromaticity. They procured vanilla fruits in the forest, that is, the pods not yet ripe and after exposing them to the sun (thus activating the enzymatic transformation processes), they used it to flavor their cocoa-based xocoatl drink .

Although the lives of these Indians have been disrupted by the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors, survivors of wars and epidemics continued the tradition of vanilla cultivation. The Totonachi, in particular, became its major producers, undisputed in the world for over 300 years.

Subsequently, the Spaniards brought the product to Europe, but they could not export its cultivation, since the plant could not be naturally pollinated and the way to do it artificially had not yet been found by intervening manually. The plant was transplanted to various European botanical gardens, but without its precious pods being obtained.

Bourbon’s discovery

In the period from 1664 to 1793, when the Compagnie française pour le commerce des indes orientales had entered to compete with the homologous British and Dutch companies that competed for the market of spices and exotic products from the colonies, vanilla was also introduced in some tropical possessions, with the same unsuccessful outcome. The Mexican production monopoly made vanilla a very rare and expensive product.

Until a boy of only 12 years , in a condition of slavery, on the French island of La Réunion (at the time called Bourbon), in the Indian Ocean, or at the antipodes of the area of ​​origin of the vanilla plant, had a brilliant intuition that made him go down in history. Little Edmond Albius found a way to pollinate by handthe sterile vanilla plants that had been planted on the island by an adventurous businessman.

It was already 1841. This discovery opened the doors to a new market, changing the fate of the island of La Réunion and then of the Comoros and Madagascar, which became the main place of production of vanilla on a large scale and allowed to the fruit of delighting the palates of the whole world. Despite his incredible discovery, Albius died in poverty in San Suzanne in 1880.

Vanilla expansion

Production increased rapidly and exceeded one thousand tons in 1929, more than ten times that of La Réunion. In a short time Mexico lost its primacy in the cultivation of vanilla. Cultivations also spread to Indonesia, although some varieties were of low quality, in the Mauritius islands, Jamaica and other tropical countries. It had already arrived in Tahiti in 1848, but on this island a species called Vanilla thaitensis took over which had a great success for its particular aromatic properties.

Vanilla in Polynesia

In 1951 it was ascertained that the species had developed on the Polynesian island by hybridizations from other Vanilla species that were imported, namely Vanilla planifolia , Vanilla pompona, Vanilla odorata and two other unidentified species. Since then, in fact, Tahitian vanilla is called Vanilla × tahitensis where the reference “×” indicates its hybrid nature.

Vanilla production today

Currently, Madagascar has drastically reduced production due to adverse weather conditions and the low remuneration recognized. This has encouraged more foreign competition to enter the market.

But, the introduction on the market of the chemical flavoring has further complicated things, increasing the cost of the natural and quality product, despite the ever-growing demand.

In recent years, Indonesia has greatly increased its production (3.7 t), surpassing Madagascar (2.8 t). China has recently entered the vanilla business, but has already conquered the third production position (1.35t).

Mexico (0.6 t), Turkey (0.2 t) follow in the ranking. Papua New Guinea and Tahiti, although with very low production, boast a very high quality product specifically with the Vanilla x thaitensis species . Then, they still follow the crops that are located at:

  • La Réunion
  • Uganda
  • Tanzania
  • seychelles
  • Java
  • Ceylon.

Vanilla: working process

the method involves the following steps:

1 – Stabilization of the pods

By immersion in hot water (60/80 ° C) which blocks its vegetative vitality. In Mexico the stabilization of the pod occurs directly with sun exposure. This phase is called killing because the pod is literally killed, that is, it is blocked in its metabolic life.

However, this damage to cellular integrity allows some enzymes to be released (in particular β-D-glucosidase ), allowing them to come into contact with the other molecules present in the cells, including glucovanillin , a glycoside, i.e. a sugar that it will transform to give life to vanillin during the other processing phases. Vanillin is considered to be the molecule most responsible for the aroma of vanilla. But its flavor is complex and consists of a set of aromatic compounds.

2 – Dripping and browning

The still warm pods are placed in special cases covered with wool and left to rest for 24 hours at a constant temperature of 50 ° C, in this way they already take on their characteristic burnished color.

3 – Sun exposure

Several times over two weeks. This drying process is alternated with periods of rest in the shade on special well-ventilated grates, which favor light fermentation.

4 – Refinement and aging

It is the last stage of processing before packaging and involves closing the pods in wooden cases lined with wax paper for a period of 2 to 8 months. During this phase the slats are qualitatively divided according to presentation and length criteria.

Then, the pods are sent for packaging and sale .

External Links:

United States Department of Agriculture- USDA .

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