Herb Basics: Vanilla Bean Extract

| May/June 2002

You may wonder why the dried, whole vanilla beans (Vanilla planifolia)—available at some health-food and grocery stores—are so expensive. According to Deni Bown’s The Herb Society of America Encyclopedia of Herbs & Their Uses (DK, 1995), vanilla flowers are short-lived and have specific pollinators. In fact, Bown writes, “In cultivation, the plants must be pollinated by hand to produce fruits (vanilla pods), which take five to seven months to ripen.” Obviously, a lot of labor is involved!

Vanilla’s luscious aromatic compounds develop during fermentation of the unripe pods. Those accustomed to synthetic vanilla will swoon at the taste of the real thing. Try storing a vanilla bean in your sugar bowl or jar, to lend a lovely scent and flavor to baked goods. Or, you can make your own vanilla extract using the following recipe. When your extract runs out, don’t throw the vanilla beans away—you can simmer them with milk to make a delicious pudding.

Vanilla Extract
Makes 2 ounces

  • 4 vanilla beans
  • 2 ounces alcohol (such as vodka, rum or brandy)
  1. Slice the vanilla beans in half lengthwise and place the beans and alcohol in a covered glass jar.
  2. Let sit for 2 to 3 weeks; then the extract is ready for use.

Source: Bown, Deni. The Herb Society of America Encyclopedia of Herbs & Their Uses. London: Dorling Kindersley, 1995.



September 12-13, 2019
Seven Springs, Pennsylvania

Fermentation Frenzy! is produced by Fermentation magazine in conjunction with the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR. This one-and-a-half day event is jam-packed with fun and informative hands-on sessions.


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

Free Product Information Classifieds

click me