Vanilla is a member of the orchid family, a sprawling conglomeration of some 25,000 different species. Those methods are labor-intensive, though, and that’s the reason why vanilla and pure vanilla extract are so expensive. The flavor makes all of my baking so much better! Written by Patricia Rain on February 26, 2009. He brought vanilla and cacao back to Europe where it was enjoyed by only the rich and famous for many years. Demand for this new and beguiling flavor spread across the US during the 18th century, and vanilla soon started appearing in domestic cookbooks and in soft drinks like Pemberton’s Coca-Cola. "In Totonac lore, vanilla orchids sprouted from the blood of a runaway deity and her forbidden mortal lover, both of whom were captured and slain by the princess’s father. Your purchase here supports our HUMANITARIAN efforts. It is significantly different from Bourbon and Mexican vanilla. Fax: (831) 476 – 9112, © 2015. They continue to cultivate the fruit that they consider was given to them by the gods. Written by Patricia Rain on February 26, 2009. Vanilla is one of the world's most popular flavors, and it has a secretly sensational origin story to go with its delicious taste. "Edmond Albius, a 12-year-old slave, discovered that vanilla plants could be pollinated by hand or a blade of grass. In Totonac lore, vanilla orchids sprouted from the blood of a runaway deity and her forbidden mortal lover, both of whom were captured and slain by the princess’s father. // End -->. They named the fruit tlilxochitl, or "black flower", after the matured fruit, which shrivels and turns black shortly after being picked. His techniques are still used today. They discovered (and modern science would back them up on this) that it had aphrodisiac potencies, and they combined vanilla with cacao in a ceremonial concoction called “xocolatl” (or chocolatl, also known as the original hot chocolate). "); 99% of all vanilla products are imitation. But even without sampling much of vanilla’s glorious taste, the Totonacs believed it was a gift from the gods. Mexican vanilla is bold, with smoky undertones.

var doctitle = document.title; //Get the local page title It was the Totonac Indians of Mexico who first cultivated this bean.

Vanilla consumption took off in the budding United States shortly thereafter, largely thanks to Thomas Jefferson, who was known to add it to his ice cream. Mexican vanilla orchids had always depended on native bees to thrive, but in the 1700s, when smugglers brought vanilla vines out of the region to Réunion, the plants—now a world away from the bees—failed to grow. Cortés brought the vanilla-flavored Mexican hot chocolate back to Europe, where Hugh Morgan, an apothecary to England’s Queen Elizabeth, had the bright idea to deploy vanilla by itself—leading to a starring role for the black flower in a wide range of products, including perfumes, tobacco, and alcohol. Jefferson assembled one of the earliest recipes for vanilla ice cream, now preserved in the Library of Congress. Tahitian vanilla plant stock also originally comes from Mexico and is a cross of Vanilla planifolia and Vanilla odorata. Prices remained high for 10 years, mainly because the sale of vanilla was controlled by a tight group. It’s a tropical orchid, and there are more than 150 varieties of vanilla, though only two types – Bourbon and Tahitian — are used commercially. I opened the bottle of your vanilla extract last weekend to bake some cookies and the difference in taste is extraordinary.". The more you come to know about vanilla, the more it seems the age-old descriptor “plain vanilla” is meant ironically—like a big guy whose nickname is ‘Tiny.’ As the only variety out of 25,000 species of orchid that produces an agriculturally useful product, vanilla is literally unique—and it could hardly be more exotic: It’s one of the most complex flavors in existence (with more than 200 flavor compounds), it’s the second-most expensive spice in the world (after saffron) and its history is steeped in intrigue, ancient civilizations, piracy, and brutal conquest. It’s also used in many industrial applications such as a flavoring for medicines and as a fragrance to conceal the strong smell of rubber tires, paint, and cleaning products. Additional countries that grow vanilla include Costa Rica, Guatemala, Uganda, Kenya, China, India, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Fiji, Tahiti, Hawaii and other Pacific Islands. It was originally believed only to have value as a perfume. Many corporations substitute imitation vanilla and then call it “natural flavors” on the label. Enter Edmond Albius, a 12-year-old slave, who discovered that vanilla plants could be pollinated by hand or a blade of grass. Vanilla first left Mexico in the early 1500s on ships bound for Spain. Genetic modification changed its flavor and fragrance and it is now considered its own species. This is significantly less than cacao (chocolate) and coffee, which has millions of containers of cacao and coffee beans. The dairy industry uses a large percentage of the world’s vanilla in ice creams, yogurt (fresh and frozen), and other flavored dairy products. Since the vanilla orchid turns black after maturing and being harvested, the Aztecs called it the “black flower.”.

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