Food Guts - Ingredient Information

Ingredient Lookup

Vanilla Bean

Nutritional Information

4 pieces, vanilla bean

  • Calories 210
  • Calories from Fat 144
  • Amount%DV
  • Total Fat 16g25%
  • Saturated Fat 10g50%
  • Monounsaturated Fat 0g
  • Polyunsaturated Fat 0g
  • Cholestreol 5mg2%
  • Sodium 40mg2%
  • Potassium 0mg0%
  • Total Carbohydrate 20g7%
  • Dietary Fiber 4g16%
  • Sugars 12g
  • Protein 3g6%
  • Calcium 4mg0%
  • Iron 25mg139%
  • Vitamin A 0%
  • Vitamin C 0%

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Vanilla Bean on Wikipedia:

This article is about the flavoring. For other uses, see Vanilla (disambiguation). Vanilla pods

Vanilla is a flavoring derived from orchids of the genus Vanilla native to Mexico. Etymologically, vanilla derives from the Spanish word ``vainilla``, little pod.[1] Originally cultivated by Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican peoples, Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés is credited with introducing both the spice and chocolate to Europe in the 1520s.[2] Attempts to cultivate the vanilla plant outside Mexico and Central America proved futile because of the symbiotic relationship between the tlilxochitl vine that produced the vanilla orchid and the local species of Melipona bee; it wasn't until 1837 that Belgian botanist Charles François Antoine Morren discovered this fact and pioneered a method of artificially pollinating the plant. The method proved financially unworkable and was not deployed commercially.[3] In 1841, a 12-year-old French-owned slave by the name of Edmond Albius, who lived on Île Bourbon, discovered the plant could be hand pollinated, allowing global cultivation of the plant.[4]

There are currently three major cultivars of vanilla grown globally, all derived from a species originally found in Mesoamerica, including parts of modern day Mexico.[5] The various subspecies are Vanilla planifolia (syn. V. fragrans), grown on Madagascar, Réunion and other tropical areas along the Indian Ocean; V. tahitensis, grown in the South Pacific; and V. pompona, found in the West Indies, Central and South America.[6] The majority of the world's vanilla is the V. planifolia variety, more commonly known as ``Madagascar-Bourbon`` vanilla, which is produced in a small region of Madagascar and in Indonesia.[7][8]

Vanilla is the second most expensive spice after saffron,[citation needed] due to the extensive labor required to grow the vanilla seed pods. Despite the expense, it is highly valued for its flavor, which author Frederic Rosengarten, Jr. described in The Book of Spices as ``pure, spicy, and delicate`` and its complex floral aroma depicted as a ``peculiar bouquet.``[9] Despite its high cost, vanilla is widely used in both commercial and domestic baking, perfume manufacture and aromatherapy.[9]

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History

The first to cultivate vanilla were the Totonac people, who inhabit the Mazantla Valley on the Gulf Coast of Mexico in the present-day state of Veracruz. According to Totonac mythology, the tropical orchid was born when Princess Xanat, forbidden by her father from marrying a mortal, fled to the forest with her lover. The lovers were captured and beheaded. Where their blood touched the ground, the vine of the tropical orchid grew.[3]

Drawing of Vanilla from the Florentine Codex (ca. 1580) and description of its use and properties written in the Nahuatl language.

In the fifteenth century, Aztecs invading from the central highlands of Mexico conquered the Totonacs, and soon developed a taste for the vanilla bean. They named the bean ``tlilxochitl``, or ``black flower``, after the mature bean, which shrivels and turns black shortly after it is picked. Subjugated by the Aztecs, the Totonacs paid tribute by sending vanilla beans to the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan.

Until the mid-19th century, Mexico was the chief producer of vanilla. In 1819, however, French entrepreneurs shipped vanilla beans to the islands of Réunion and Mauritius in hopes of producing vanilla there. After Edmond Albius, a 12-year-old slave from Réunion Island, discovered how to pollinate the flowers quickly by hand, the pods began to thrive. Soon the tropical orchids were sent from Réunion Island to the Comoros Islands and Madagascar along with instructions for pollinating them. By 1898, Madagascar, Réunion, and the Comoros Islands produced 200 metric tons of vanilla beans, about 80% of world production.[10]

The market price of vanilla rose dramatically in the late 1970s, after a tropical cyclone ravaged key croplands. Prices remained high through the early 1980s despite the introduction of Indonesian vanilla. In the mid-1980s, the cartel that had controlled vanilla prices and distribution since its creation in 1930 disbanded. Prices dropped 70% over the next few years, to nearly US$20 per kilogram, but would rise sharply again after tropical cyclone Hudah struck Madagascar in April, 2000. The cyclone, political instability, and poor weather in the third year drove vanilla prices to an astonishing US$500 per kilogram in 2004, bringing new countries into the vanilla industry. A good crop, coupled with decreased demand caused by the production of imitation vanilla, has pushed the market price down to the $40 per kilo range in the middle of 2005.

Madagascar (mostly the fertile region of Sava) accounts for half of the global production of vanilla. Mexico, once the leading producer of natural vanilla with an annual 500 tons, produced only 10 tons of vanilla in 2006. An estimated 95% of “vanilla” products actually contain artificial vanillin, produced from lignin.[11]

Etymology

Vanilla was completely unknown in the Old World before Columbus. Spanish explorers arriving on the Gulf Coast of Mexico in the early sixteenth century gave vanilla its current name. Spanish and Portuguese sailors and explorers brought vanilla into Africa and Asia later that century. They called it vainilla, or ``little pod``. The word vanilla entered the English language in the 1754, when the botanist Philip Miller wrote about the genus in his Gardener’s Dictionary.[12] Vainilla is from the diminutive of vaina, from the Latin vagina (sheath) to describe the way the pod must be split open to expose the seeds.[13]

Biology

Vanilla orchid

Main article: Vanilla (orchid)

The main species harvested for vanillin is Vanilla planifolia. Although it is native to Mexico, it is now widely grown throughout the tropics. Madagascar is the world's largest producer. Additional sources include Vanilla pompona and Vanilla tahitiensis (grown in Tahiti and Niue), although the vanillin content of these species is much less than Vanilla planifolia.[14]

Vanilla grows as a vine, climbing up an existing tree (also called a tutor), pole, or other support. It can be grown in a wood (on trees), in a plantation (on trees or poles), or in a ``shader``, in increasing orders of productivity. Its growth environment is referred to as its terroir and includes not only the adjacent plants, but also the climate, geography and local geology. Left alone, it will grow as high as possible on the support, with few flowers. Every year, growers fold the higher parts of the plant downwards so that the plant stays at heights accessible by a standing human. This also greatly stimulates flowering.

Vanilla planifolia - flower.

The distinctively flavored compounds are found in the fruit, which results from the pollination of the flower. One flower produces one fruit. Vanilla planifolia flowers are hermaphroditic: they carry both male (anther) and female (stigma) organs; however, to avoid self-pollination, a membrane separates those organs. The flowers can only be naturally pollinated by a specific Melipone bee found in Mexico (abeja de monte or mountain bee). This bee provided Mexico with a 300 year long monopoly on Vanilla production, from the time it was first discovered by Europeans and the French first transplanted the vines to their overseas colonies, until a substitute was found for the bees. The vines would grow, but would not fruit outside of Mexico. Growers tried to bring this bee into other growing locales, to no avail. The only way to produce fruits without the bees is artificial pollination. And today, even in Mexico, hand pollination is used extensively.

In 1836, botanist Charles François Antoine Morren was drinking coffee on a patio in Papantla (in Veracruz, Mexico) and noticed black bees flying around the vanilla flowers next to his table. He watched their actions closely as they would land and work their way under a flap inside the flower, transferring pollen in the process. Within hours the flowers closed and several days later Morren noticed vanilla pods beginning to form. Morren immediately began experimenting with hand pollination. A few years later in 1841, a simple and efficient artificial hand pollination method was developed by a 12-year-old slave named Edmond Albius on Réunion, a method still used today. Using a beveled sliver of bamboo,[15] an agricultural worker lifts the membrane separating the anther and the stigma, then, using the thumb, transfers the pollen from the anther to the stigma. The flower, self-pollinated, will then produce a fruit. The vanilla flower lasts about one day, sometimes less, and so, growers have to inspect their plantations every day for open flowers, a labor-intensive task.

The fruit, a seed capsule, if left on the plant, will ripen and open at the end; as it dries, the phenolic compounds crystallize, giving the beans a diamond-dusted appearance which the French call givre (hoarfrost). It will then release the distinctive vanilla smell. The fruit contains tiny, flavorless seeds. In dishes prepared with whole natural vanilla, these seeds are recognizable as black specks.

Like other orchids' seeds, vanilla seed will not germinate without the presence of certain mycorrhizal fungi. Instead, growers reproduce the plant by cutting: they remove sections of the vine with six or more leaf nodes, a root opposite each leaf. The two lower leaves are removed, and this area is buried in loose soil at the base of a support. The remaining upper roots will cling to the support, and often grow down into the soil. Growth is rapid under good conditions.

Cultivars

Nielsen-Massey's Vanilla extract 2006 Top Vanilla Producers Country Production (tonnes)  %  Madagascar 6,200 58%  Indonesia 2,399 23%