Cooking with Vanilla

From an orchid comes a bean with a rich, versatile flavor


| December/January 1995


Vanilla Recipes

Shrimp and Corn Bisque 
• Tarragon-Vanilla Salad Dressing 
• Pasta with Sauce ­Veracruz
• Roast Pork with ­Apricots, Prunes, and Vanilla
• Orange Butter Sauce with Vanilla and Orange Balsam Thyme 
• Pears Poached in Wine with Hazelnut-Gorgonzola Stuffing
• Thunder of Zeus 

Plain vanilla? Hardly! This beloved spice, with its rich, fruity, complex flavor, has soared in popularity in recent years among cooks who are discovering many culinary uses beyond ice cream, cookies, and cakes. Vanilla can add a wondrous “What is it?” flavor to many vegetables and entrées. When it takes a starring role in an unexpected dish, many cooks turn not to the bottle of extract in the cupboard, but rather to its source: the vanilla bean. If you’ve never used vanilla in this form, you’re in for a treat.

The vanilla bean used in cooking is the cured seedpod of Vanilla planifolia or V. tahitensis, two of the ninety species in this genus of rather nondescript, vining orchids. Although about twenty-five species yield beans for commerce, most of these are of lower quality.

The finest vanilla in the world, V. planifolia, comes from Mexico. When the Spanish conquistador Cortés arrived in Mexico, he found the Aztecs enjoying hot chocolate brewed with vanilla beans and stirred with a cinnamon stick. Mexican chocolate still is flavored with vanilla and cinnamon.

Although V. planifolia was transplanted to other parts of the tropics, the plants at first failed to bear fruit. In Mexico, the fragrant, pale yellow flowers are pollinated only by a tiny bee and certain species of hummingbirds. Lack of natural pollinators had caused the failure of these early attempts to establish plantings.

In 1840, an African worker on the French island of Bourbon (now called Réunion) in the Indian Ocean east of Madagascar devised a method of hand-pollinating vanilla flowers that is still used today. He inserted a small, pointed stick into a freshly opened flower. The pollen adhered to the stick and could then be transferred to the stigma. After fertilization, the vanilla bean develops quickly. “Bourbon” vanilla still signifies a vanilla of high quality.

Vanilla is now produced in several tropical countries. Madagascar is the leader —with about a million pounds of vanilla beans a year, while Mexico produces about a third as much. Good-quality, organically grown vanilla is currently being produced in Costa Rica, whereas that from Brazil and Venezuela is used primarily for scenting soaps and tobacco.





mother earth news fair 2018 schedule

MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR

Next: June 2-3, 2018
Frederick, MD

Sit in on dozens of practical workshops from the leading authorities on natural health, organic gardening, real food and more!

LEARN MORE



Subscribe today and save 58%

Subscribe to Mother Earth Living !

Mother Earth LivingWelcome to Mother Earth Living, the authority on green lifestyle and design. Each issue of Mother Earth Living features advice to create naturally healthy and nontoxic homes for yourself and your loved ones. With Mother Earth Living by your side, you’ll discover all the best and latest information you want on choosing natural remedies and practicing preventive medicine; cooking with a nutritious and whole-food focus; creating a nontoxic home; and gardening for food, wellness and enjoyment. Subscribe to Mother Earth Living today to get inspired on the art of living wisely and living well.

Save Money & a Few Trees!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You’ll save an additional $5 and get six issues of Mother Earth Living for just $19.95! (Offer valid only in the U.S.)

Or, choose Bill Me and pay just $24.95.




Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter


Copyright 2018, All Rights Reserved
Ogden Publications, Inc., 1503 SW 42nd St., Topeka, Kansas 66609-1265