Thursday, 20 October 2016

Herbs, Spices and Herbalists - part 4: Vanilla ...



My mother for some reason hated vanilla … and never used it in cooking … now of course I’d like to know why – but that will have to wait til I’m in those higher regions of life beyond.

Vanilla Slice


Once I’d tasted a vanilla slice, or mille feuille, as a ‘greedy’ growing teenager – any chance for another piece was always taken up … or searched for.



The climbing vanilla orchid

I knew nothing about its history, or growth, or for that matter how to use it – as I’ve never been bothered … I can get my fix easily enough at the patisserie or here, more likely, the bakery.


Vanilla apparently is the second-most expensive spice after saffron … because growing the seed pods is labour intensive.  It has plenty of uses … in baking, perfume manufacture and aromatherapy.



It is another of those plants, a climbing orchid, originating in the humid forests of tropical America which was brought over by the Spanish after they had seen the Incas use it as flavouring in chocolate.


Vanilla mentioned in the Florentine Codex (c 1580)

Attempts to cultivate vanilla outside Central America proved futile because of the symbiotic relationship between the vanilla orchid and its natural pollinator, the local species of Melipona bee, was unknown.

The Melipone Bee


But, there’s always a ‘but’, in 1836, botanist Charles Francois Antoine Morren was drinking coffee on a patio in Veracruz, Mexico and noticed black bees flying around the vanilla flowers next to his table:  these were the social and stingless Melipone bees.




He watched as they would land and work their way under the flap inside the flower, transferring pollen in the process.  This Belgian botanist started hand pollination ... but it was a time consuming job … although its discovery showed that artificial pollination was possible …

Charles Morren
… to make matters somewhat more difficult the vanilla flower only lasts about one day, sometimes less, so growers have to inspect their plantations every day for open flowers, a labour intensive task.


The ‘poor old’ Melipona bee is now only known for the honey it produces … the fact it was a symbiotic necessity to grow vanilla has, in Wikipedia, largely gone unnoticed …


Edmond Albius


Five years later, in 1841, Edmond Albius (1829 – 1880), a slave who lived on the French island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean, discovered, at the age of 12, a quicker way to pollinate the plant using a thin stick or blade of grass and a simple thumb gesture … leading to global cultivation.


Albius’ manual technique is still in use today … France, in 1848, outlawed slavery in its colonies … Albius became a domestic servant … with a sorry life ahead, dying in poverty.  He has at least been remembered though …


Unripe pods

The long yellow pods are picked unripe, fresh pods have no vanilla flavour … this develops only as a result of internal chemical activity (by enzymes) during a curing process.


Vainilla, or “little pod” as it was described only entered the English language in 1754, when the botanist Philip Miller (1691 – 1771) wrote about the genus in his Gardener’s Dictionary – he was chief gardener at the Chelsea Physic Garden.




Prior to that Hugh Morgan (1530 – 1613) is credited with the introduction of vanilla to England … Morgan was apothecary to Queen Elizabeth I.


Vanilla flower with its parts ...
see Wikipedia 
Formerly, vanilla was used in medicine, as a nerve stimulant and along with other spices had a reputation as an aphrodisiac.  It was also used for scenting tobacco.


Natural vanilla is expensive, reflecting the labour intensive production, while the synthetic form is widely used.  Make sure you’re getting the type you want and need …

Cornish Cream
Ice Cream cone



Now we know it as a flavouring … essential for ice-cream, vital in chocolate manufacture … an increasingly popular addition to savoury dishes, but is most lovingly used as a background flavour in desserts and liqueurs.




In 1874 it was one of the first flavours to be synthesised, using material from coniferous trees … today vanillin is extracted from many sources … and is used in a range of extracts and essences.  




Illustration of vanilla planifolia by
Matilda Smith (1854 - 1926)
from Curtis' Botanical magazine via Kew
Originally vanilla was purely used as an additional flavouring – now we know it is widely used in many processes – natural and artificial … and can be detected in sponges, custards … but remember check your source … vanillin can be produced synthetically from lignin, a natural polymer found in wood … and most synthetic vanillin is a by-product from the pulp used in papermaking …  


Want to eat less? … apparently if you smell a delicious whiff of rich vanilla extract before eating your meal … you might not eat so much … worth a try, I guess.




c/o Vanilla pods in various stages of curing in alcohol
So vanilla – that ubiquitous of aromas … has many applications … from tobacco to possibly quelling your appetite – with an interesting history … from its early unique start in Central America to its total global dominance in some form today.




The best vanilla essence is made by extracting crushed vanilla pods with alcohol … but cured vanilla pods may be used over and over again … even after flavouring custard … just wash and re-dry.  The easiest way though is to have vanilla sugar on hand … a pod left in some sugar …


Vanilla Victoria Sponge ... 

Some suggested recipes … apple crumble or pie with vanilla ice-cream or custard, vanilla with other fruits … bananas, cherries, berry fruits ... or as a baking spice: vanilla with clove … and I’m sure you have some others …




That is the second most expensive spice … but one we can’t seem to do without … now when do I get my next custard slice?


Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

67 comments:

D.G. Hudson said...

I love vanilla and it's known to have calming effects. I use it in my oatmeal (added at the very end before the milk or cream). And funny that you should mention putting some vanilla bean in sugar. We do that, too, and hubs has always liked it. (don't the British have vanilla sugar in packets sometimes?) Another trick I use to offset the cost of vanilla: buy artificial vanilla and vanilla beans. I cut the vanilla bean in sections slashing it but not cutting through so the flavor of the vanilla is strengthened to a taste similar to Mexican vanilla. Just reading this made me think of the smell. . .

Lenny Lee* said...


hi my grandblogmom!

love this post because it gave me a really nice memory of my mom. she always put a little Benjamin's vanilla (from Jamaica) in lots of delicious desserts...even when the recipe didn't call for it. its a really cool spice and smells soooo good. for sure your post makes me hungry. i'll share a custard slice with you. :) love you!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ DG - how fantastic that this post has resonated ... I wasn't at all sure about it - but it hit the mark apparently. We do put our beans into sugar ... and I love the idea of yours to offset the cost ... I do little (none! now) baking ... so have very little sugar of any description in the flat. I'm sure we can buy convenience vanilla here ... it'll cost more, but save the work ... and I do have some vanilla pods in the flat ... brought back as a present from Morocco ...

@ Lenny - how amazing to see you here. Before I forget: HAPPY BIRTHDAY today ...

Isn't that funny - your mother added vanilla and used, while my Mama would just omit it! How interesting to read about Benjamins ... I might write a post up about them ...

You are obviously so enthusiastic about vanilla ... such a wonderful post ... and I will for sure share a custard slice with you sometime ... and I send my grandblogmom love back as too lots of hugs ...

What a wonderful first two posts on Vanilla ... makes my heart sing on Lenny's birthday ...

Cheers to you too ... and all lovers of vanilla just 'waiting' to comment! Happy end of the week and enjoy the birthday celebrations ... Hilary

Denise Covey said...

Oh stop with the beautiful food, Hilary! Victoria Sponge indeed! I can just taste it. I had them a'plenty when I was growing up. I used to make a mean one myself, but seem to have lost the knack (probably a good thing!)
Thanks for the history of vanilla. I knew it was expensive, but didn't realise it was close to saffron in price.

As always, great post.

Denise :-)

Elephant's Child said...

We have pods resting in our caster sugar. Always.
I love it, and find its scent incredibly evocative. Good times, comfort food, and love...
I add a generous amount to our Christmas shortbread too.

Mike@Bit About Britain said...

What a fascinating post (as usual!), Hilary. Loved it. Vanilla is such a wonderful, comforting, flavour. A drop was an essential ingredient in the fresh banana milkshakes I used to make for the kids - but as you say it crops up all over the place. Your piece reminded me of the spice souk in Dubai - amazing place, where we bought vanilla pods and some wonderful saffron. But the background to these things is taken for granted - really interesting!

Rhodesia said...

This is a great post Hilary, so much I did not know about vanilla though it is always in use in my kitchen. Mmmmm custard slice, what a fab flavour, though I am sure it is not good for the bathroom scales LOL. Hope all is well, take care Diane

Out on the prairie said...

A spice i really enjoy,I get the pure form at a Mexican grocery. I have never used the pods , but see them used on cooking shows. I like the ice cream when you can see the tiny flecks in it.

I should have labeled the green fruits in mt last post. They are osage oranges or hedge apples. Not edible to humans but some people put them in their cellar to ward off spiders. The were planted as a natural fence and the Native Americans prized their wood to make powerful bows.the look like brains and are unique to find.

Mike Goad said...

Interesting read, Hilary, great learning. Plain vanilla is not my first choice in ice cream -- for plain ice cream, I prefer chocolate --, but it's great with apple or cherry pie.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Denise - oh yes ... I also used to make Victoria Sponges - mine were usually coffee flavoured (Camp Coffee)... I just simply don't bake now ... also my cakes back then weren't brilliant - as I used to eat most of the cake mix before it got into the oven! Just so glad the post is being enjoyed ...

@ EC - I guess if I was a 'we' .. we'd have pods in our sugar ... but I, as an I, don't! It is evocative ... but I only crave it occasionally ...

It's great that vanilla is really resonating ... and with Christmas Shortbread I used to make a lot of that too .. but no more ...

@ Mike - so glad you enjoyed it - thank you. Amazing how everyone loves vanilla ... fresh banana milkshakes with a drop of vanilla - another interesting thought.

I've never been to a spice souk - I'd love to go ... sometime! I got a present of some vanilla pods and some saffron (love saffron - as it has a Cornish element to it) ... and a few other spices ... but I certainly didn't know about its origins.

@ Diane - thanks so much ... I'm sure you'd have vanilla in your kitchen ... and oh yes that custard slice! - I try and avoid them ... the scales do need to lose some weight?! Thanks all well here ...

@ Steve - yes I thought you'd know about vanilla - and great access you'd have from your Mexican stores ... I'm sure I've eaten vanilla speckled things ... but I'm not sure I'd chose it: hangover from my childhood days ...

Re answering my question to your recent post .. thanks - I'll check them out - I always like the extra learning ... and what a fascinating extra re folklore and spiders!! Useful wood too ... the 'green oranges' do look like brains ...how true.

@ Mike - many thanks ... and I'm always happy to educate a little! I rarely have plain ice-cream - pure Cornish perhaps .. but like you I'd go for chocolate ... and definitely with apple or cherry pie!

Cheers to you all ... lots of extra ideas here ... so glad the post is happily reviving memories ... Hilary

Joanne said...

so plain vanilla is not so plain after all. That's a lot of work for such a tasty flavor. And now I like "vanilla" body wash. The scent is calming.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Didn't know pollinating vanilla was so difficult.
Best vanilla is homemade vanilla ice cream.

Jo said...

Oh, oh, oh, that Cornish Cream ice cream took me back many years to my one and only visit to the county when I consumed their ice cream and cream by the bucket load.

I knew it was an orchid but I didn't know much else about the background. I used it in my A to Z last year, I think. Thanks for the info. You can keep your slices, not my cuppa tea at all.

Patsy said...

I buy real vanilla extract and that doesn't seem to be particularly expensive, especially as a bottle lasts me a long time. I can't remember exactly how much the pods were last time I looked, but clearly I decided they weren't worth it as I left them in the shop.

Liz A. said...

Considering how ubiquitous it is, it's hard to imagine how unique it is. When I first heard this story (well, not everything you have here), I was amazed. Still, not a big fan of vanilla.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Joanne - that's a good way of putting it ... plain vanilla is not plain. And you mention body wash, candles I've got here ... but it can be used in so many ways ... and is calming, after the work that goes into producing it - it's probably a good thing.

@ Alex - nope nor did I - but amazing how nature works and we eventually find out. Ah ha .. home made vanilla ice=cream ... I'd second that ...

@ Jo - oh yes ... Cornish Vanilla Ice Cream ... perhaps home-made might be slightly better ... but not much. You obviously had a great time in Cornwall ... oh ok .. more vanilla slices for me!! I'll look up your A-Z ...

@ Patsy ... you might find you're buying erzatz ... but as long as it tastes ok .. then fine. Sounds like there's lots of synthetic stuff around ... I'd buy synthetic too. You're like me - leave the unnecessarily expensive things behind ...

@ Liz - it is ubiquitous, yet unique --- good choice of descriptive words. I'm not that keen on vanilla - though I'll have my mille feuille slice ... that's the best!

Cheers to you all ... fascinating to read your comments ... Hilary

Ann Carbine Best said...

Ah, vanilla. Just yesterday Jen watched me put together some almond flour muffins that included 4 teaspoons of vanilla. She could smell it, and said she once tasted it and in her opinion it didn't taste as it smelled. I have yet to taste it, I realized; but all the wonderful recipes with vanilla are so yummy.

As always, dear friend, this is a wonderful post. (I'm trying to at least post for the WEP to keep in touch with some great friends and bloggers; I can't seem to do much more than this anymore with blogging. You're always on my list/in my good memories/my heart. Hope all is well with you. ((( )))

Janie Junebug said...

I LOVE vanilla. Merely opening the bottle in the kitchen for a whiff send me into paroxysms of joy. My cologne is called Vanilla Lace. I could eat vanilla cake all day. Do you get the feeling that I love vanilla? My mother had vanilla from Mexico. It was stronger that American vanilla and absolutely amazing.

Love,
Janie

Nilanjana Bose said...

I love vanilla - can't imagine any European/British dessert without it. In India, a lot of traditional Indian sweets use it too, which is the only use I don't like. There saffron and mace etc feel better suited. All flavourings seem exorbitantly expensive - saffron vanilla cardamom...enjoyed getting to know the history behind vanilla. South America has given the world many of my favourite things :)

Marja said...

In Holland we eat a lot of vanilla, pudding and slices It is cheap so probably synthetic. How sad about that clever man called Edmond that he had such a difficult live.
a very interesting post as I didn't even know that it came from a flower There is so much you don't know Have a good weekend :)

Anabel Marsh said...

Yet vanilla is sometimes used as a synonym for bland. Not true! Might try the sniffing before food routine........

N. R. Williams said...

I didn't know any of that. My grandson had to come look at that bee. His mom, my daughter is allergic to bee stings, so there was great interest.
Nancy

Maria said...

I loved reading about one of my favorite flavors here in your blog, Hilary!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Ann – how interesting you use vanilla with almond flour … I don’t think I’ve come across almond flour. Fascinating Jen could smell the vanilla – it’s strong in its ‘essence’ format – we just tend to smell it, not taste it neat, … and it has lots of uses.

That’s fine – well done on posting for the WEP and generally keeping in touch … that’s good … you have many more important things going on – Jen for one.

@ Janie – ok … yes I get it! You love vanilla … and obviously anything with vanilla draws you in. It’s interesting how vanilla differs country to country … and I’m glad it brought back memories of your mother …

@ Nila – I think we use it a lot. It is a rich spice … but it’s interesting how you think saffron and mace go better with your Indian desserts. Flavourings can be expensive – good quality ones … and now I’ve found out the history of vanilla – I can understand why … It’ll be interesting seeing where other spices and herbs originated from …

@ Marja – the Dutch are renowned for their desserts aren’t they. Most vanilla used commercially is synthetic. I agree poor Edmond Albius … at least for now we remember his name.

I’m glad you appreciated the post … learning about the vanilla flower becoming a pod and thus being able to cure the pod and obtain the flavour …

@ Anabel – I know it looks bland … but most definitely is not. Taking a whiff before eating ... that’ll be interesting to see if it works …

@ Nancy – oh I’m so glad you called your grandson to look at the bee – they can be ‘dangerous’ to some people ... this one is a non-stinger …

@ Maria – that’s good … vanilla is a favourite of many people …

Cheers to you all – have happy weekends … and thank you for commenting - Hilary

Lynn said...

I love the scent of vanilla when I open the bottle to use it in cake or cookie batter. I use the real thing - even if it costs more. Your vanilla slice looks SO good.

Karen Lange said...

I am a big fan of vanilla. Can't imagine baking without it. Never thought much about how it grew other than seeing the pods in pictures and whatnot. Appreciate this info - interesting as always! Have a wonderful weekend!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Pure, genuine vanilla is expensive, but the artificial ones are cheap. It's always been my favorite flavor.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

I also love vanilla... in anything, almost. I love it in tea, smoothies, hot choco, cookies, puddin, and ice-cream! It smells wonderful. In fact, I'm having a showing tomorrow so I'm put a few drops in water on the stove so the house smell delectable.

A Cuban In London said...

Love vanilla. Love putting some extract in my hot mocha.

Greetings from London.

Mark Noce said...

Vanilla is magical:) I'd take it over chocolate any day:)

Dianne K. Salerni said...

I had no idea that vanilla was the second most expensive spice after saffron (although I knew saffron was the first).

Vanilla is my favorite flavor of ice cream. A well-made vanilla is better than any other flavor -- and it needs no bits and pieces added to it. Just plain vanilla.

dolorah said...

I can't imagine the smell of vanilla "curbing" my appetite. As you mention, so many good foods are vanilla :)

Fascinating info Hilary.

Happy Halloween; have a good weekend.

Shannon Lawrence said...

Mmmm, vanilla. I didn't appreciate it as much as I do now. It's always sad to read/hear about someone who made a massive breakthrough or achievement, yet died in poverty, unappreciated. Bees never get the credit they're due either.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Lynn - I must say I’d rather use the real thing … and that vanilla slice looks good every time I open the post up!

@ Karen – I’m sure many people are like you with regard to baking and it’s always to hand. I know learning the history of plants is fascinating … I’m enjoying the write ups …

@ Diane – vanilla certainly seems to entrap everyone with its aroma or scent and flavour …

@ Joylene – seems it’s really a favourite … and you list lots of goodies for us to try – and then yes, for a house showing … interesting to read about – hope the showing is a good one.

@ ACIL – I’ve never tried vanilla with hot mocha … but hot mocha is a big enough treat for me …

@ Mark – I’d rather go with chocolate I think! But I do enjoy vanilla custard at times …

@ Dianne – I must say that fact surprised me … second only to saffron in expense as a spice. I couldn’t agree more – a good quality vanilla ice-cream is so rich and fulsome …

@ Donna – I can’t imagine that a whiff of vanilla would curb my appetite … but it’s an idea. Lots of ideas for vanilla across many consumer areas …

@ Shannon – I still probably don’t fully appreciate vanilla … but in slices – then definitely! Edmond Albius had a talent that was recognised, but wasn’t treated very fairly … but I’m glad his name is known. Bees too … we are trying to protect them and encourage them … realisation is spreading, if guilt doesn’t get in the way …

Thanks so much to you – good know what your taste buds desire in the way of vanilla! Cheers Hilary

Chrys Fey said...

I never thought of vanilla as an expensive spice, condidering how often it's used. In food and for it's scent. Vanilla is a lovely spice.

Kali Delamagente said...

That was fascinating. I've always wondered why vanilla was so expensive. To my pedestrian taste, the artificial is as good. I bet French chefs wouldn't agree!

DMS said...

What a sweet history lesson. I love vanilla and I didn't know that much about it. I was especially fascinated by the pollination history. Thanks for sharing! :)
~Jess

TexWisGirl said...

ooh, your vanilla slice looks divine! what would the world do without vanilla ice cream? :)

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

Interesting post! I love vanilla, and the extra cost for the real thing is worth it. No artificial flavoring even comes close to being as good. (Darn it... now I want some custard...)

Lynda R Young said...

I do love vanilla, and interestingly it's also the majority of people's most favourite smells.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Chrys - vanilla is ubiquitous isn't it ... a lot now is synthetic ... the scents we get in household products ... but everyone seems to love it.

@ Jacqui - now I've remembered about Kali! - I'm sure many a chef, or florist would prefer the real taste, flavour and scent ... but we live with the artificial ...

@ Jess - that's great ... and how they acquired the ability to pollinate artificially was fascinating ...

@ Theresa - the vanilla slice is centre stage isn't it ... ice-creams I don't eat so much ... but they are good additions to desserts ....

@ Susan - I'm glad you think the cost of the real thing is worth it - I would too. I really dislike artificial aromas ... but I do enjoy custard, or the slice ...

@ Lynda - vanilla is popular isn't it ... and is one of the flavours/aromas always found in shops ...

Cheers to you all ... perhaps something of vanilla flavour today? Hilary

Keith's Ramblings said...

I adore vanilla in everything from ice cream to air freshener! Off to the kitchen - time to knock up a mille feuille or two methinks! I'll blame the calories on you!

Keith's Ramblngs is 10 today!


Kathleen Valentine said...

How interesting. A friend once brought me a little bundle of vanilla beans from Madagascar. I split them open, put them in a fancy jar, and filled it with vodka. I have been using it for years and it is wonderful.

Stephen Tremp said...

Hello Hilary long time no see. I knew real vanilla was very expensive but not the second most expensive. That's why we buy the artificial stuff because wifey and the lids use the cheap stuff so much in baking. Very interesting lesson as always. Thanks for helping to expand my mind a little more.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Keith - it's interesting how so many of you love vanilla ... and I'd love to share your mille feuille - I hope you made more than one?! The calories aren't that good are they ... but once in a while!

@ Kathleen - oh now that's a good idea .. I might flavour something ... don't think it'll be vodka .. but I should use my vanilla beans for something ... I guess sugar it will need to be.

@ Stephen - good to see you again ... well it makes sense if the children use lots with their baking to use the cheaper variety ... and I'm sure the real stuff is very expensive. Glad you enjoyed the back story of vanilla and a little history - let alone food!

Thanks so much for coming by .. and cheers for now - Hilary

Vallypee said...

This is absolutely fascinating, Hilary! I'm not fond of vanilla if it is too strong, but like it as a subtle background flavour. Thank you for this very interesting post. I was sorry to read about Edward Albius. What a sad end to someone who contirbuted such an important technique to the world!

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

So interesting to hear more about vanilla! I'm not familiar with vanilla slices, but they sure look delicious. I always feel very odd when baking with 'imitation vanilla,' but it's so common here. I wonder what makes it 'imitation?' It's the same as the pulp synthetic? Then I will definitely avoid it in the future...ick!

Christine Rains said...

The things I did not know about vanilla. How remarkable! I think it's one of those things so many people take for granted because they think it is common, but no longer for me. I will relish every bit of vanilla now!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Val - I fall into your court by taste ... I'm not keen on vanilla and find it overwhelming ... yet here everyone seems to love it. I felt for Edmond Albius and wanted to give his name a shout out ... and another aspect of French Slavery that I hadn't come across - I'm sure we did it too. I hope he had some happy years before the changes came about.

@ Elizabeth - it is synthetic from various sources ... but I think I'd get some from a good quality provisioner ... and ask - as there are lots of synthetic versions around ... you don't need much, so one small vial should last for a decent length of time ... or put the pods into sugar: hope that helps ... check the label and question it ... yes: watch for the synthetic ... but it's in lots of commercial products, I'm sorry to say ...

@ Christine - exactly, we do think of it as common, but most of the products we buy are made with synthetic vanilla ... so if you have good quality vanilla then please use with pleasure and sparingly ...

Cheers to you all - food is a mixed bag in today's age ... Hilary

Jeffrey Scott said...

I've never been big on Vanilla ice cream. But anything else Vanilla and I love it, especially when used in baking. I've never given it much thought where it comes from. But I find this very interesting. Like the cashew, sometimes we just accept what we have, without even thinking about where it comes from. I mention the cashew, because how it's found in it's natural state kind of shocked me when I first learned about it.
Thanks for all the great information and the wonderful looking piece of cake. :p mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

Bish Denham said...

We had a vanilla orchid growing on a tree in our yard in the VI. It never produced, but we were very *proud* to have it.

So much I didn't know about it, particularly about Albius. I like to keep a vanilla bean in a jar of sugar used sparingly as a special sweetener in tea or coffee.

cleemckenzie said...

I've always loved vanilla. The smell is exquisite and it adds the perfect touch to so many sweet baked things. Interesting that you mother didn't care for it.

This is a fascinating history, HIlary. Thanks for it. I had no idea about the pollinating issues!

Annalisa Crawford said...

Wow, I didn't know so much went into the procurement of vanilla. I love the smell, and the taste, and the ice-cream. I shall be more respectful when I eat my next Cornish Ice Cream cone :-)

Shammickite said...

Whenever a friend went to mexico, I would always try to bribe them to bring some vanilla back for me. The last bottle I had, I dropped on the tile floor. Well, It made the house smell wonderful but I didn't really appreciate the aroma! since then I have used the cheap stuff. None of my friends have been to
Mexico!

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I use vanilla in my coffee and in baking. Vanilla scented candles are my favorite. I didn't know it was so expensive.

LD Masterson said...

I'll admit I've always taken vanilla for granted. Never knew it was so hard to grow. I'll have to treat it with a bit more respect. (It's wonderful in tea.)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Jeffrey – it is so strange realising how difficult things are to come to fruition … over the millennia – we’ve been trying different plants etc and experimenting. Your note on cashews led me off to look them up – aren’t they fascinating … and I agree it ‘shocked’ me too – extraordinary plant.

Oh yes the cake …. too good to eat apparently – it’s been here for ages!

@ Bish – how interesting to read you had a vanilla orchid at home, yet that too didn’t produce any pods … but it was considered to be in pride of place. I’m glad I could enlighten you re ‘your’ vanilla orchid – and how much Albius did for us and vanilla today. I think I’d better put my vanilla beans into some sugar and perhaps try it with things …

@ Lee – I never really realised what vanilla was – except in the vanilla slices, which I l-o-v-e-d! Now I wish I’d known why my mother didn’t like vanilla … but it meant I’ve never used it – but I rarely bake or cook now … I’m glad you enjoyed finding out about it and the pollination angle …

@ Annalisa – it became quite a difficult post to write up … how much to put in, or leave out … and I wanted Albius to be there. That’s good to read you’ll be more appreciative of the Cornish vanilla ice-cream cones you eat!

@ Shammickite – thanks for visiting … oh dear, so sorry to read about dropping the bottle … it must be strong the real essence. The cheaper essence is easily available … and less overpowering – enjoy the little you use.

@ Susan – I’ve never wanted to have vanilla in my coffee and as I don’t bake … that solves that problem … but I do have some vanilla candles: they weren’t expensive, I’m glad to say!

@ LD – it’s funny how much we learn isn’t it … never realising so much about how things we take for granted come about. Again – good to know it’s good in tea …

Thanks everyone – so interesting to read your comments and find out all the snippets on vanilla … looks like we’ll be respecting it a great deal more … cheers Hilary

Jo said...

Just thought I'd mention Hilary, I wrote about Cashews in my A to Z too.

Blogoratti said...

I certainly have something new. Vanilla is great, and that Victoria Sponge, oh my...

Thanks for stopping over. Warm greetings!

beste barki said...

I learned many things about the vanilla plant from your post Hilary. I didn't even know that vanilla is a kind of orchid.

Susan Scott said...

thanks Hilary, so interesting about vanilla. I did not know it is an orchid type plant. And its many uses from medicine to scenting tobacco ...
I love the smell of it - I wonder if patisseries use the expensive kind or the less expensive synthetic one -

Robert Bennett said...

I'm mad at you now...

...

This made me hungry.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Jo - thanks, I'm sure you have ...

@ Blogoratti - good to see you back; the Victoria sponge was a rather good image I thought, my sponges would have been coffee coloured ...

@ Beste - I'd never realised vanilla was an orchid either ...

@ Susan - as I mentioned .. I'd no idea how the plant grew, or what it entailed to harvest the beans ... I think patisseries will use the commercial variety, unless it is a sole trader and make their own - then perhaps they'll use the real stuff ...

@ Robert - sorry about the hunger pangs ... food brings them on!

Cheers to you all ... and thanks for visiting - Hilary

Rhonda Albom said...

Thanks for the interesting facts on vanilla and its cultivation. I love vanilla and use it a lot in baking (usually with chocolate).

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Rhonda - glad you enjoyed reading about vanilla ... and use it in your baking ... it does seemed to be teamed up with chocolate quite a lot now ... cheers Hilary

Juliet Batten said...

I love vanilla and it's a delight to read your post and find out where it comes from, and why it's so expensive.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Juliet - it has an interesting history, which I was amazed to find out about ... and then why it is so expensive ... cheers Hilary