What could be tastier than Vanilla Ice Cream? Especially if you have a sweet tooth!
But what is Vanilla? Where does it grow? How do you choose and store it?
The smell of vanilla contributes to the production of the “hormone of pleasure” – serotonin. Vanilla pods are one of the most expensive spices in the world.
Real vanilla grows around the equator. Why is it important to know? Because vanilla is one of the most expensive spices in the world, along with saffron.
Vanilla –What is it?
Simply put, Vanilla is an orchid, and the treasured pod itself is the fruit of the blossom that forms after flowering is complete. Why is real vanilla so expensive? The price of this Queen of the Spices is influenced by the popularity of Vanilla, high demand, and the complexity of growing these vines. Even with artificial pollination, only half of all flowers produce fruits. The homeland of vanilla is considered Central America, and more precisely – Mexico. It is there that to this day Vanilla can be found in the wild. Of the more than one hundred known plant species, only three are grown – Vanilla planifolia Andrews – the best pods up to 25 centimeters long, grown mainly in Madagascar; Vanilla pompona Schiede – pods shorter, but no less good quality; Vanilla Tahitensis J.W. Moore – Tahitian vanilla, lower quality.
In ancient times, the Aztecs used vanilla pods as money. They could buy food and other goods, and they used it to pay taxes.
Do not confuse Real Vanilla with synthetic Vanillin. These are colorless crystals. Vanillin has been synthesized since 1858.
How to choose and store?
Good quality vanilla pods are usually 10-20 centimeters long, soft, elastic, rounded, oily to the touch, and dark brown or almost black. The best varieties are covered, in addition, with a touch of whitish crystals. With proper storage, the durability of vanilla flavor is amazing. There are known cases of vanilla preservation of up to 36 years from the date of production! If they are improperly stored or prepared, the pods lose their elasticity, become brittle, crack, open and lose color, or become light-colored. If this happens, the vanilla can lose the qualities that make it valuable. Poor quality vanilla quickly expires and deteriorates, especially in adverse conditions.
Vanilla should be stored in a sealed jar in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.
Good storage results were achieved in ancient Israel. This is evidenced by traces of fragrant substance on jugs found in the tomb in Megiddo – the historical site of Israel. Three jugs from Megiddo contain the remains of two basic chemical compounds that are found in natural vanilla extract. Chemical analysis also revealed residual vegetable oils, including a component of olive oil.
In cooking, the seeds of a real vanilla pod are highly regarded. Although this spice has a bitter and intense taste, it is most often used as a flavoring for confectionery and dairy products.
Natural vanilla sugar at home
Try this easy home recipe for vanilla sugar. You can flavor both refined white and dark sugar as well as cane sugar. To do this, take one vanilla bean, cut along the seam lengthwise and scrape off the seeds with a knife. Mix the vanilla seeds with about half a kilogram of sugar in a resealable container (jar). Put the remaining pods there and leave for 3-5 days, ensuring the lid is tightly closed. The longer they stand, the more intense the aroma will be. This aromatic sugar can be used in baking.