Vanilla in our A-Z - Cooking Index
Vanilla is a flavoring derived from vanilla orchids. The pods of the orchid are harvested when still immature and odourless and then left in humid and hot conditions for seven to ten days before being dried out. Once the vanilla pods have dried the vanilla can then be cured to leave vanilla powder or Vanilla extract.
Vanilla pods can be bought in delicatessens or upmarket food stores and while expensive are the best way to add vanilla flavouring to dishes. Split the stem and use a sharp knife to extract the sticky black syrup in the pods. A split pod can also be added to granulated sugar to create vanilla sugar, which is used in many baking recipes.
Vanilla orchids originally originated from Mexico although production is now most intense in Madagascar and Indonesia.
Vanilla is used as a flavoring for a wide range of foods but its most common use is in ice cream, where it has become the most common flavor served worldwide.
Vanilla is also used in perfumes and aromatherapy oils.