Vanilla Bean

Vanilla Bean

Vanilla planifolia

Vanilla is used mostly as a culinary plant but can also be used to help bloating and low grade fevers.

  • Plant type: Perennial
  • Other names:
  • Medicinal: Yes
  • Culinary: Yes
  • Ceremonial: No
  • Parts Used: Seed Pod & Seeds
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About Vanilla Bean

Vanilla beans are the most craved culinary spice that comes from the vanilla orchid. These climbing vines are have bagged a rich history due to its creamy, warm, and comforting aroma. It is also called flat-leaved vanilla due to peculiarly flat leaves that are quite long, thick, and dark green in color. Vanilla vines can creep along with the distance of approximately 100 feet.

Vanilla has self-fertile flowers but they require pollinating insects for pollination. To help with it, they have attractive yellow-colored flowers that are pro at inviting the bees and butterflies.

The vanilla bean, that we now call it, was anciently called tlilxochitl or black flower by the inhabitants of the Aztec empire. The name black flower never got much attention, but it was assigned with this weird name due to the blackening of vanilla beans (fruit) after picking it.  

Time and again, vanilla beans are employed in the culinary department as a flavoring agent in ice-creams, cakes, cookies, and whatnot. Vanilla beans have also got various medicinal benefits like treating fever, flatulence, and a lot more. This aromatic stimulant sits among the gang of one of the best aphrodisiacs. Apart from the synthetic essences, the real vanilla beans, nowadays, are liable to awaken the passion for real.

Vanilla beans are packed with a compound, Vanillin, which does a stellar job at arresting the proliferation of cancerous cells. It also acts as a potent antioxidant and scavenges ROS (Reactive Oxidative Species) quite rapidly to reduce the oxidative stress and diseases related to it.

Growing

Vanilla beans are the lover of humidity, warmth, and filtered sun exposure. Their view can be enjoyed both indoors and outdoors.

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. Vanilla vines take forever to grow as they are quite slow and steady, but they are a pro at winning the race by stretching up to 100 feet upon receiving desirable conditions.

Vanilla seeds or cuttings require well-drained, loamy soil with weak acidic nature. It should also be high in organic matter so, mulch and compost are fervently added to help with the healthy growth of the vanilla vine.

For indoor growth, a wooden support is incorporated in the center of the container to help the vine climb higher and higher.

Vanilla vines grow at the pace of a snail and after three to five years, they become sensible enough to produce pods.

This seasonal bloomer proffers yet another strenuous task i.e. hand pollination besides being a slow grower. Around 1 to 2 months post-pollination, vanilla pods appear that mature after 7 to 8 months.

Harvesting

Vanilla pods require patience to mature. The green-colored pods should be avoided for collection. They ripen fully when their distal ends turn yellow.

Vanilla beans (fruits) are harvested by snipping off the pods using a sharp pair of scissors.

Vanilla beans are obliged to undergo the process of sweating in a sweatbox to spark a rise in the levels of vanillin. This is done by providing the pods with optimum temperature so that the fruitful enzymatic reaction can take place for the production of vanillin with in the beans.

Vanilla beans can be wrapped in wax paper and placed in a sterilized glass jar or vial. The vial should then be stored in a cool and dry place or freezer to last at least a year.

Usage

Vanilla beans stand among the finest treats of the spice collection. They are readily used in various cuisines and medicines to impart its creamy flavor.

  • Tincture - Infuse chopped Vanilla beans in grain alcohol for at least 6 weeks. Strain the liquid and place it in a dark and dry place.
  • Tea - Vanilla beans are usually combined with black tea and rolled to boil in the water together. They are strained and some white sugar is poured (to taste) to add some flavor.
  • Decoction - Vanilla beans are simmered in water until their delicate persuasive aroma infuses in the water. The beans are strained and the decoction is saved for promising passionate evenings.
  • Salve - Chopped vanilla beans are heated with any carrier oil and stirred with cocoa butter or mango butter to form vanilla salve.
  • Syrup - White sugar and water are simmered until the sugar dissolves. Later, vanilla beans (half-sliced) are added to the mixture and stirred for a while. The mixture is then strained to save the vanilla syrup for pumping it over coffee, cake batters, and various other delicacies.
  • Infused oil - Vanilla beans (sliced) are dropped into the bottle of olive oil and shaken occasionally to let creamy aroma infuse with the oil. The beans can be left in the bottle for enjoying the everlasting scent.