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Vanilla is a tropical climbing vine of the orchid family, grown for its pleasant flavor. Vanilla is one of the costliest spices in the market after saffron and grows with the support of bark of trees.
October 10, 2020

There’s a little waffling here: one source claims that actually it’s Democrats who prefer vanilla, while Republicans go for chocolate; and a Baskin-Robbins poll found that there’s a substantial contingent in the Southwest that shuns both in favor of mint chocolate chip.  On the other hand, the International Ice Cream Association, which should know, puts vanilla at the top of the charts as first choice of 29 percent of ice-cream eaters, feebly followed by chocolate (8.9 percent), butter pecan (5.3 percent), and strawberry (5.3 percent).

Given our passion for vanilla, it seems peculiar that “plain vanilla” is the going synonym for anything basic, bland, or blah. A plain-vanilla wardrobe lacks pizzazz; plain-vanilla technologies lack bells and whistles; plain-vanilla automobiles miss out on chrome, fins, and flashy hood ornaments; and plain-vanilla music is the sort of soulless drone that afflicts us in elevators. The truth is, though, that plain vanilla is anything but dull.

Vanilla is a member of the orchid family, a sprawling conglomeration of some 25,000 different species. Vanilla is a native of South and Central America and the Caribbean; and the first people to have cultivated it seem to have been the Totonacs of Mexico’s east coast. The Aztecs acquired vanilla when they conquered the Totonacs in the 15th Century; the Spanish, in turn, got it when they conquered the Aztecs. One source claims that it was introduced to western Europe by Hernán Cortés-though at the time it was eclipsed by his other American imports, which included jaguars, opossums, an armadillo, and an entire team of ballplayers equipped with bouncing rubber balls.

The Aztecs drank their chocolatl with a dash of vanilla, and Europeans, once they got used to the stuff (one appalled Spaniard described chocolate as “a drink for pigs”), followed suit. Vanilla was thought of as nothing more than an additive for chocolate until the early 17th Century, when Hugh Morgan-a creative apothecary in the employ of Queen Elizabeth I-invented chocolate-free, all-vanilla-flavored sweetmeats. The Queen adored them. By the next century, the French were using vanilla to flavor ice cream-a treat discovered by Thomas Jefferson in the 1780s, when he lived in Paris as American Minister to France. He was so thrilled with it that he copied down a recipe, now preserved in the Library of Congress.

Vanilla came late to recipe books. According to food historian Waverley Root, the first known vanilla recipe appears in the 1805 edition of Hannah Glasse’sThe Art of CookeryHannah Glasse’s The Art of Cookery, which suggests adding “vanelas” to chocolate; the first American recipe-for vanilla ice cream-is found in Mary Randolph’s The Virginia HousewifeMary Randolph’s The Virginia Housewife (1824). By the latter half of the century, the demand for vanilla skyrocketed. Not only was it the established flavor of choice for ice cream, but it was an essential ingredient of soft drinks-among these Atlanta chemist John S. Pemberton’s Coca-Cola, which went on sale in 1886, impressively advertised as an “esteemed Brain tonic and Intellectual Beverage.”

The problem with vanilla is that it’s pricey. Vanilla is the second most expensive spice in the world (after saffron) because its production is so labor-intensive. Vanilla grows as a clinging vine, reaching lengths of up to 300 feet, from which sprout pale greenish-yellow flowers, about four inches in diameter. These-in Mexico, vanilla’s native habitat-are pollinated by melipona bees and, occasionally, by hummingbirds. Each flower remains open for just 24 hours, after which, if not pollinated, it wilts, dies, and drops to the ground. Frankly, given its sexual proclivities and narrow window of opportunity, the very existence of vanilla seems like an evolutionary long shot.

If pollination is successful, a fruit develops in the form of a 6-to-10-inch-long pod, filled with thousands of minuscule black seeds (the appealing specks in good-quality vanilla ice cream). Transplants of vanilla to tropical and presumably vanilla-friendly regions around the globe, however-lacking the proper bees-remained determinedly podless until 1841, when Edmond Albius, a 12-year-old slave boy on the island of Réunion in the Indian Ocean, figured out how to hand-pollinate the vanilla blooms using a stick and a flip of the thumb. The simple technique had far-reaching implications. Vanilla plantations sprang up across the globe, from Madagascar to India, Tahiti, and Indonesia. Today about 75 percent of the world’s vanilla comes from Madagascar and Réunion.

The vanilla beans-which at harvest look like string beans-are individually hand-picked as they become ripe, and then are subjected to a prolonged, multi-step curing process. The end result is the dessiccated, but aromatic, black pods sold by spice purveyors. The pokiness of the vanilla plant-it takes nine months for the pods to ripen-and the grueling nature of the harvesting and post-harvest preparation means that we, internationally, don’t produce much vanilla. Total worldwide production is about 2000 metric tons, which is a drop in the bucket when it comes to vanilla demand. The vast bulk-99 percent-of vanilla-flavored products on the market, from vanilla-flavored vodka to vanilla wafers and vanilla pudding, don’t actually contain vanilla.

Vanilla is a stunningly complex and subtle spice, containing at a guess somewhere between 250 and 500 different flavor and fragrance components. The most prominent of these is vanillin (4-hydroxy-3-methoxybenzaldehyde) which-despite its ungainly chemical moniker-is relatively straightforward to synthesize. Vanillin can be made from petrochemicals; from lignin, a by-product of the wood pulp and paper industry; and from eugenol, a component of clove oil. It can even be produced from castoreum, a molasses-like secretion from the anal glands of beavers, though this, admittedly, is a minor source.

Synthetic vanillin is at least twenty-fold cheaper than real vanilla, which explains why it’s manufactured and sold to the tune of 20,000 metric tons per year. If you’re nibbling on something vanilla-flavored or sniffing something vanilla-scented, chances are that you’re enjoying synthetic vanillin, not natural vanilla.

This makes the recent “Campaign for Natural Vanilla” launched by the environmental organization Friends of the Earth (FOE) look downright dumb. What FOE is protesting is synbio vanillin, a product of the synthetic-biology industry. Synbio products are made by engineering artificial DNA sequences which are implanted in living cells such as algae or yeast. The cells are then grown up in large quantities in fermenters and the products that they manufacture are purified from the culture medium.

Yeast has been engineered in this fashion to make valencene and noolkatone, the chemicals responsible for the citrusy smells of oranges and grapefruit, used in perfumes; and Ecover, a Belgian synthetic-biology company, uses a modified single-cell algae to produce a synbio version of palm kernel oil, used in soap. (A hope here is to protect the tropical rainforests from being felled in favor of palm trees.)

Synbio vanillin, claims a recent article in Mother Jones, “will compete directly with the premium-priced natural vanilla market now owned by farmers in places like Madagascar and Mexico.” Well, it won’t. It will compete with the substantial synthetic vanillin industry, the guys who are making vanillin from petrochemicals and wood pulp. And both techniques—synthetic biology and synthetic chemistry—are making exactly the same molecule: vanillin, a.k.a. 4-hydroxy-3-methoxybenzaldehyde. There’s nothing wrong, weird, or dangerous about either synthetic vanillin or synbio vanillin. But to imply that the synbio version is somehow creepy—as opposed to the “old-fashioned” kind made out of coal tar—is just plain silly.

Neither vanillin, however, is real vanilla.

If you want real plain vanilla, you’ll need a vanilla bean.


September 18, 2020

Vanilla is not just an additional ingredient in cake or bread making.
We are accustomed to using vanilla in making cakes or bread. Its distinctive aroma will add to the delicacy of the cake or bread itself.

However, vanilla turns out to have health benefits that are not widely known because, so far, people use it more often as a complementary ingredient in making cakes and bread.

However, the use of vanilla abroad is not limited to complementary ingredients. The benefits of vanilla are used in maintaining health.

Interesting Facts About Vanilla

As we know, we often use vanilla as a complementary ingredient in making cakes or bread. Well, do you know that the vanilla powder that is commonly sold in Indonesia is not made from real vanilla?
The majority of vanilla powder sold on the market there is just artificial flavors.  It is very difficult to find pure vanilla extract or vanilla powder in Indonesia.

Why is that so? Is it because vanillas are rare in Indonesia? The answer is, no.
Interestingly, Indonesia is the second-largest vanilla producer in the world after Madagascar. However, the majority of the vanilla crop is directly exported abroad.
Countries that import vanillas from Indonesia then process the beans into vanilla extract and vanilla paste and sell those processed vanillas back to Indonesia.
Vanilla crops are rarely sold locally in Indonesia because the demand is low compared to other countries.

Besides the various benefits in the world of baking and bread, vanilla also has positive effects on health.
The following describes the benefits of vanilla for body health, which are:

1. Vanilla can improve brain function
Vanilla is believed to be able to improve brain function. Vanilla can help in maintaining focus.

2. Vanilla is beneficial for cardiovascular health
The next benefit of vanilla is that it can maintain cardiovascular health.
Vanilla has an active ingredient called vanillin. This substance helps to control cholesterol in the body so that it can prevent coronary disease.

3. Vanilla is good for skin health and beauty
For women, skin health and beauty is very important.
You can get the benefits from vanilla as it contains antioxidant properties that will protect the skin from damage caused by pollution.

4. Vanilla as an anti-inflammatory
Like ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, and other anti-inflammatory herbs, vanilla can also be anti-inflammatory.
So, vanilla can help relieve inflammation.

5. Vanilla can reduce stress
Vanilla is used as aromatherapy to reduce stress. In one study, the vanillin content in vanilla had properties like fluoxetine which is commonly used in drugs to treat depression or obsessive-compulsive problems. Therefore, vanilla has the use for maintaining mental health.


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September 2, 2020


  • Vanilla vines grow 30-50 ft tall, supported by a host tree or posts.
  • Must be grown in a hot, moist, tropical climate, 75°-85°F.
  • Grows only 10-20° North or South of the Equator.
  • The vanilla vine is an orchid which is indigenous to South Eastern Mexico. Dating back to Cortez’s conquest of the Aztec Kingdom in 1519, it is one of the most ancient flavors.
  • Many people have tried to re-locate the vanilla plant but initially failed because those locations did not have the Melipone Bee. Now, in other parts of the world, humans must hand-pollinate the vanilla vines.
  • A stick, the size of a toothpick is used to hand-pollinate the vanilla beans.
  • It is possible to grow the same vanilla vine in Madagascar, Indonesia, Tahiti, Papua New Guinea and India, but all five cured beans have their own distinctive flavor due to differing soil and climate conditions.

August 8, 2020

Tanah Nusantara (red: Indonesia) was once well known in the world for its spice production. One of the most valuable is vanilla. In the world, Indonesian vanilla is recognized as the highest quality and has even defeated the country of origin vanilla, Perneli or Panili, Mexico. Crossed by the equator with the sun's orbit that is so close, Indonesian vanilla is loved by the world.

February 27, 2020

Assistance from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is enabling small-scale spice farmers in Indonesia to create sustainable futures for themselves, ending long-standing reliance on aid.

In collaboration with international procurement, processing, and export company, Cooperative Business International (CBI), supportive partnerships have been established with international vendors such as Maryland, USA-based McCormick & Company, and more than 5,000 Indonesian spice farmers growing highly sought after produce such as pepper, cloves, nutmeg, and vanilla.

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