54-22 Skillman Avenue, Woodside
The vanilla beans of commerce are the cured unripe fruit of Mexican or Bourbon vanilla (Vanilla planifolia), Tahiti vanilla (V. tahitensis), and occasionally West Indian vanilla (V. pompona); all three species are thought to be derived from a single species native to Mexico, Central America, and northern South America. Vanilla had been used to flavour xocoatl, the chocolate beverage of the Aztecs, centuries before the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés drank it at Montezuma’s court, and soon afterward vanilla became popular in Europe. Today it is used in a variety of sweet foods and beverages, particularly chocolate, confections, ice cream, and bakery goods, and in perfumery… Fresh vanilla fruits, often called “beans,” have no aroma. The characteristic aroma results from enzymatic action during curing. The traditional method begins with subjecting the harvested beans to a process of nightly sweating and daily exposure to the sun for about 10 days, until they become deep chocolate brown in colour. Then the beans are spread on trays in an airy shelter until dry enough for grading and packing. Curing and drying requires from four to five months. The best grade of cured seed pods are usually covered with tiny crystals of vanillin, which provide the characteristic rich and sweet aroma. This coating, known as givre, may be used as a criterion of quality. Madagascar supplies 80-85% of the world’s natural vanilla. In the 19th century the French introduced Bourbon vanilla, a tropical vine orchid native to Mexico and parts of South America, to their African island colony.
Source: Encyclopedia Britannica, The Economist