When I was growing up, the taste of pancakes meant the kind my granny made for me. No instant mix could come close to her magic. She used to eat her pancake with butter and syrup while I enjoyed it plain… still do. The fluffy amalgam of dried milk and vanillin in each bite keep me glued to the plate.
Talking of vanillin- a chemical stand-in for vanilla extract, was an economic perfume used in baked goods of my juvenescence. I recognized the familiar note in all the cookies, biscuits, waffles, muffins, and even dumplings. The warm earthy scent of vanilla belongs to me, it seems, and to the families and bakeries who use it heartily.
As I look down on my plate, I can tell there is no similarity between those delicate disks and what my granny used to make in the late afternoons. Sniffing in the warm vanilla scent, I can now tell about what I will write in my today’s post.
With my current excitement, we will dive into the details about vanilla beans, their growing needs, and the vanilla extract.
What is Vanilla Bean?
Vanilla beans (Vanilla panifolia), the most craved culinary spice, come straight from the vanilla orchid. Its vines can run as long as 100 feet, spreading the signature creamy and warm comforting aroma.
The inhabitants of the Aztec empire used to call vanilla tlilxochitl or black flower due to the blackening of vanilla beans (fruit) after picking it. But the name black flower wasn’t much entertained. It is also termed as flat-leaved vanilla because of its peculiar long, dark, flat, but thick leaves.
Vanilla beans are not just the legendary flavoring agent; they also pose some remarkable medicinal properties, like arresting fever, flatulence, and even cancer cell proliferation.
How does Vanilla Bean Grow?
Vanilla vines take forever to grow and after three to five years, they are mature enough to produce pods. They like humidity, warmth, and filtered sun exposure. Vanilla is both epiphytic and semi-terrestrial plant that grows easily in the wild with the support of a wooden trunk. Its aerial roots pave their way in the fissures and cracks of the bark to get a good grip and climb higher.
The good news everyone awaits is that they can be grown indoors too. Wooden support should be incorporated in the center of the container to help the vine climb higher and higher.
Vanilla flowers are hand pollinated and after 1-2 months, vanilla pods finally appear further take 7-8 months to mature up.
What is Vanilla Bean Extract?
Needless to say, vanilla bean extract has always been a favorite among the bakers. But how exactly do those pods transform into their well-used extract form?
Vanilla pods are hand harvested from the vines. They are chopped and infused in grain alcohol (50%) for a considerable amount of time to yield vanilla bean extract. To save you scaling up and down the recipe, our homemade Vanilla Bean Extract is all set to get you started with your recipe. It will be a perfect addition to your pantry.
Apart from amplifying your baking game, Vanilla Bean Extract can be used to tend to minor cuts and as a natural deodorizer.
Pro tip: Put some drops of Vanilla Bean Extract on cotton balls and put it in the refrigerator to freshen it up. You can also freshen up your microwave. Just pour few drops of Vanilla Bean Extract in a bowl containing ½ cup of water and microwave for 30 seconds at high.