Vanilla flavoring is much in demand these days. This question seems to peak the interest of people nowadays on social media. Well, we’re here to answer it.
Most people who know about Vanilla, they always ask this question, why is Vanilla so expensive? If not, you might want to note that Vanilla is one of the market’s most expensive spices/flavorings these days. Its price has skyrocketed in the past few years.
Vanilla flavoring originally comes from vanilla beans or can also be made from vanillin. Pure or natural vanilla flavoring is made from vanilla beans (found in a type of orchid plant), whereas if you’re curious about how the artificial vanilla flavorings are made, they are formed in labs using a chemical called vanillin.
A year back, it was in the news that vanilla is made from beaver secretions. It was confirmed that the beaver’s secretions were indeed being used in making artificial vanilla flavoring because it had a good smell and was a cheaper way to make it. This issue was addressed, and it shocked everyone that they may have consumed beaver’s secretions at some point in their life.
Some measures were taken almost immediately regarding this problem. Now, the labs use a substance/ chemical called vanillin that is similar to the chemical found in vanilla beans to make flavorings. While pure vanilla is grown on farms for years, artificial or imitation vanilla is prepared in labs.
What Is Vanilla?
Vanilla is a type of spice or fruit, whatever you prefer. It is a part of the orchid plant, extracted from pods and then grown as a vanilla bean. These beans are where the Vanilla flavorings come from, they’re made from vanilla beans. It is used in sweet and savory dishes like cake, pudding, pizzelle, ice cream, etc. Originally grown in the farms of Madagascar, Vanilla is one of the most expensive spices to exist right now.
Madagascar is the largest supplier of vanilla all over the world, it supplies around 80% of Vanilla every year. Vanilla enhances the taste and aroma of food items, giving them a unique flavor. Majorly there are four types of vanilla; Madagascar vanilla, Mexican vanilla, Ugandan vanilla, and Tahitian vanilla. All of them are produced from pods. Vanilla is mainly used to make vanilla extract and flavorings, primarily brown, and can last up to three years!
Where Does Vanilla Extract Come From?
Vanilla extract is made from vanilla beans. Vanilla beans are obtained from pods of orchid plants. They are grown for a year to get the beans. Furthermore, the vanilla beans are soaked in water and ethyl alcohol. This pure vanilla extract is used in dishes like cake, brownies, pudding, ice cream, etc. The vanilla extract contains 35% of the mixture and pure vanilla beans. It is originally brown and is quite expensive these days. It is produced in various places of the world but majorly in Madagascar.
Where Does Imitation Vanilla Come From?
Firstly, let’s get to know what an imitation vanilla is. Imitate vanilla is also referred to as artificial vanilla. Previously, it was prepared from various things such as wood pulp, coal tar, beaver’s secretions or even cow poop. It went viral all over the social media and people raised an objection about having to consume such things. Apparently, these were used to give an aroma to the artificial vanilla like that of pure vanilla beans. After the revelation, people refused to consume artificial vanilla and the demand for pure vanilla hiked.
The correcting measures were taken right after that now, vanilla is not made from all those things. Instead, vanilla is caused by a synthesized chemical named ‘vanillin’. Vanillin is the same chemical that is found in pods, the difference being that it is formed naturally, and vanillin is formed in labs. So, it’s safe to imitate vanilla now. This also has the same uses as that of pure vanilla, it is mainly used in bakeries for making pastries, ice cream, cake, truffles, brownies, etc.
What Other Forms Does Vanilla Come In?
There are two famous forms of vanilla; the vanilla flavorings/ extract and vanilla beans. Vanilla is one of the most liked flavors among folks with its enticing aroma and unique taste. It is high in demand as it is used in almost every sweet dish, sometimes also in savory dishes. The vanilla essence, vanilla beans, and vanilla flavorings are marketed in huge quantities all over the world.
Vanilla doesn’t only come in these forms but also in other forms, such as vanilla powder and vanilla bean paste. The vanilla powder is made from the dried vanilla; the vanilla beans are dried and grounded to make a fine mixture. The vanilla bean paste is a delicacy and gives you the exact flavor of a vanilla bean; it’s rich in taste, has a sweet aroma/ taste, and is smooth in texture. While people prefer vanilla in the form of vanilla flavoring/ extract, these are also considerable options.
How Artificial Vanilla Extract Actually Made?
As mentioned earlier, artificial vanilla is the same as imitation vanilla. Artificial vanilla is made from a synthesized chemical known as vanillin. Vanillin is a chemical prepared in the lab by the combination of other chemicals or by refining petrochemicals. It is typically made from petroleum. Vanillin is the same chemical that is found in vanilla orchid pods, but instead of growing naturally, it is processed and prepared in labs.
A year back, it came to the notice of people that the artificial vanilla extract was made from beaver’s secretions. You may not know, but beaver’s secretions have a sweet aroma and flavor. That is disgusting but true. So, it was used to give the flavor and aroma to artificial vanilla until a few years back as it was convenient and a cheap way of making artificial vanilla. The sales and demand for artificial vanilla decreased after the case. But the process of making artificial vanilla pretty much changed after that. It is now purely made from chemicals and nothing else. While it may not be healthy, it is a better alternative to pure vanilla as it comes cheap and is conveniently available in the market.
Where Does Natural Vanilla Come From?
The natural vanilla extract comes from vanilla beans grown in fields by farmers. The process of making natural vanilla is lengthy as it takes time and effort to grow. Vanilla beans are obtained from pods of the orchid plant that are a type of fruit.
Natural vanilla is made from vanilla beans that are grown in farms. The orchid plant’s crop or pods are first planted, then cultivated and harvested. After that, the pollination process starts and the crop is pollinated by farmers. This process takes about 3-4 years to obtain the vanilla beans. These vanilla beans are further used to make vanilla extract, vanilla bean paste or vanilla powder. The real vanilla flavoring is made by immersing or soaking the vanilla beans in a mixture of ethyl alcohol and water.
After pollination, the bean estimate requires around 9 months to mature or fully grow. Vanilla beans are grown with patience, hard work and effort put in by farmers/ laborers. They grow the vanilla beans with effort and dedication for years, also one of the reasons for vanilla beans being expensive. During the process, vanilla goes through the stages like planting, cultivating, harvesting, and then pollinating. After that, the pure and natural vanilla bean is obtained that is used to make vanilla extract and other products of vanilla.
Differences In Vanilla Flavoring
The natural vanilla is made through vanilla beans that are grown in farms. It is sweet, rich in taste, has a unique flavor and smooth in texture. The vanilla beans are soaked in ethyl alcohol and water to get the vanilla flavoring. The natural vanilla flavoring has different types of flavor and they are all unique in themselves. The natural vanilla has a longer shelf life and is also healthy. Besides, natural vanilla flavoring is always better than artificial vanilla as it is original and handmade.
Artificial vanilla is cheap and is made with synthetic vanillin, a chemical prepared in the lab. This chemical is itself obtained from one type of vanilla bean, so it does not have variety in flavor. It is not healthy but can be used to add flavor to sweet dishes. Despite all this, artificial vanilla works the same as natural vanilla. It serves the purpose with equal efficiency.
I Have A Vanilla Bean Now, What Do I Do?
Vanilla beans make vanilla extract/ essence, vanilla flavorings, vanilla powder and vanilla bean paste. All of them have different processes but are used for one purpose. They give a unique flavor and aroma to the dishes. You can also use the vanilla bean directly as per your needs. Vanilla beans can be used to make homemade vanilla flavoring/ extract, vanilla sugar, essential oil, coffee etc.
You can cut open the pod to get the seeds for using them. Use a paring knife to cut the beans horizontally and then scrape out the seeds inside. You can use the seeds when you’re making something that requires vanilla. Vanilla beans are much better than any other form of vanilla.