Oh how I wish we could all grow vanilla beans in our gardens! Imagine how many wonderful things we’d all be baking with them if they weren’t so expensive.
10 Fun Facts About Vanilla Beans!
1. The vanilla bean is a dark pod of a climbing orchid native to Central America. More than 75% of all vanilla beans in the world are grown in Madagascar.
2. Vanilla is the most labor intensive of all agricultural products because the entire process of vanilla cultivation, pollination and harvesting is done by hand, without using machinery, chemical fertilizers or pesticides. Vanilla workers pollinate from 1,000 to 2,000 vanilla orchid flowers per day.
3. Vanilla beans are the seeds of orchids and because the majority are grown in Madagascar where they are not self-pollinated, each plant has to be pollinated by hand using a little stick. Then they have to be dried, but only for a certain amount of time each day. And this must be done for every single orchid. Exhausting and not worth it when the price farmers receive for their vanilla beans is so low.
4. Because of that process mentioned above vanilla is the second most expensive spice in the world, next to saffron. This is also due to a cyclone hitting Madagascar and wiping out 1/3 of their crops in 2017. Hello supply shortage!!
5. Vanillin is an artificial flavoring that is made to taste just like vanilla but at a fraction of the price. The increase of this in cookies, ice cream and other items that used to use real vanilla caused many vanilla bean farmers to abandon their farms. Sad day!
6. In the US, any product labeled “vanilla extract” by law must be derived from true vanilla.
7. An unopened vanilla pod stashed under the seat of your car is said to eliminate any bad or musty odors in the entire vehicle. Who needs those little car trees anyway?!
8. Adding vanilla to foods, particularly tomato-based ones, can bring out their natural sweetness without the use of sugar. Vanilla is even said to reduce the acidic quality of tomatoes.
9. A vanilla bean plant can take years to mature. Once the pods are harvested they can take six to nine months to cure. Talk about patience!
10. Adding just a few drops of real vanilla extract to a can of paint can help reduce the unpleasant odor as you paint.
Had you heard any of those fun facts before? Do you have any of your own to add? Is there a particular produce item you want to know more about? I take requests!