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    vanilla beans

Food Percentage of DRI per 100 grams

Vanilla is actually a fruit from the Vanilla Planifolia Orchid. There are 35,000 types of Orchids in the world, but only the Vanilla flower produces edible fruits. Vanilla once originated in Mexico, but they now grow in many places, including Tahiti, Madagascar, Indonesia, Uganda, and India.  

Each vanilla bean contains over 25,000 flavor-packed seeds that does wonders in smoothies, ice creams, frostings, chocolate and baked goods. The used pods can be saved for steeping in hot tea, making vanilla extract, infusing jams, sugars, liquid sweeteners, ice creams, oils and custards. 

I love using real vanilla, not just because of the amazing flavor and aroma, but also because it has some remarkable nutritional benefits. Vanilla is a medicinal food, with health promoting properties for both body and mind. It has a calming effect on the nervous system and can be used as a natural treatment for anxiety and stress. The aroma of vanilla beans alone has proven to increase feelings of relaxation and happiness. One of the major medicinal compounds in vanilla beans is called vanillin, which even in small doses is known for relieving pain and improving digestion. Vanilla beans are also mineral rich, containing trace minerals such as zinc, iron, calcium, magnesium, and iron. 

Vanilla beans can be quite pricey, and the price tags seem to continue increasing. This is because there has been a worldwide shortage of vanilla beans, and also because the pollination of vanilla orchids is done by hand in a labor intense and time consuming process of several weeks. It is said the vanilla is the worlds most labor intensive food. After harvesting, the vanilla beans are fermented which is when their flavor develops. The fact that vanilla comes from an orchid flower also tells us something about the vibration of this food and why it is so highly valued and priced.




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There are several varieties of vanilla beans with unique characteristics. With their dark, full bodied flavor and aroma, Madagascar(also called Burboun) beans are the most popular, although some say that Indianvanilla beans are superior. Tahitianvanilla beans are floral and fruity with notes of cherry, and usually the most expensive option. Another high quality vanilla bean is the Indonesian variety. Its rich and slightly smoky notes are said to pair very well with chocolate. Tongan beans grow in the mineral rich, fertile volcanic soil of the Kingdom of Tonga and are a very rare and sought after vanilla variety. 

Vanilla beans are commonly classified as grade-A and grade-B. Grade-A are big, plump and soft and contain pleanty of seeds, whereas grade-B are smaller and although aromatic they can be dry and brittle. Grade-A beans are more expensive and great for making vanilla desserts that require vanilla seeds. Grade-B are useful for making extracts, infusions and for grinding into vanilla powder.


To open vanilla, use a paring knife to score the bean lengthways, try not to cut all the way through. Use your fingers to open up the pod and reveal the seeds, then turn your paring knife blade upside down and use the dull edge to scrape out every last bit of the seeds. Save the empty pod, they are very valuable, don´t ever throw these away. I store my used pods in a zip-lock bag in the freezer. They´ve got plenty of flavor left which I´ll use later for making vanilla extract, vanilla sauce, jam, vanilla infused oil or vanilla flavored sweeteners.


Since Vanilla beans are so pricey, it’s especially important to store them right. In a humid environment, even in the fridge, vanilla beans can grow moldy. By stashing your precious vanilla in the freezeryou’re guaranteed mold-free beans. And conveniently, they stay soft and ready to use right out of the freezer. 


Vanilla Extract

In certain recipes vanilla seeds can be exchanged for vanilla extract. But when making traditional vanilla recipes such as vanilla ice cream, cheeze cake, custard or panna cotta, real vanilla seeds are essential, as there is no other way of producing those distinctive black speckles that testify of a true vanilla bean dessert. 

Vanilla Essential Oil

Food grade vanilla essential oil can be a great alternative to real vanilla seeds. Just a few drops in chocolate, ice cream or smoothies adds a wonderful flavor and fragrance. Medicine Flower pure vanilla essence is made with a CO2 extraction technique. It has a very concentrated rich and delicious vanilla flavor. It is quite pricey, but it lasts a long time since it is very concentrated and potent - you only need a couple of drops to flavor an entire dessert. 

Vanilla Powder

A budget alternative to real vanilla seeds is to use vanilla bean powder consisting of dried whole vanilla pods that have been ground to a fine black powder. Note that vanilla powder should be black or brown in color and made from one ingredient only - ground vanilla beans. White vanilla powder is typically made with synthetic vanilla and a bulking agent such as dextrose, silicone dioxide or silicone cellulose. 


Vanilla beans contain trace minerals such as zinc, iron, calcium, magnesium, and iron. They also contain anti-inflammatory and pain relieving properties and are particularly beneficial for fatigue, muscle and joint pain, nausea, and swelling. One of the major medicinal compounds in vanilla beans is called vanillin which even in small doses is known to aid digestion, decrease headaches, and provide relief for an upset stomach.