Vanilla is a flavoring derived from orchids of the genus Vanilla native to Mexico. Etymologically, vanilla derives from the Spanish word "vainilla", little pod. Originally cultivated by Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican peoples, Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés is credited with introducing both vanilla and chocolate to Europe in the 1520s.
Food features:Vanilla is the second most expensive spice after saffron, due to the extensive labor required to grow the vanilla seed pods. Despite the expense, it is highly valued for its flavor, which author Frederic Rosengarten, Jr. described in The Book of Spices as "pure, spicy, and delicate" and its complex floral aroma depicted as a "peculiar bouquet."Despite its high cost, vanilla is widely used in both commercial and domestic baking, perfume manufacture and aromatherapy.
Place of origin:The main species harvested for vanillin is Vanilla planifolia. Although it is native to Mexico, it is now widely grown throughout the tropics. Madagascar is the world's largest producer. Additional sources include Vanilla pompona and Vanilla tahitiensis (grown in Tahiti and Niue), although the vanillin content of these species is much less than Vanilla planifolia.
Nutrition:In an in-vitro test vanilla was able to block quorum sensing in bacteria . This is medically interesting because in many bacteria quorum sensing signals function as a switch for virulence . The microbes only become virulent when the signals indicate that they have the numbers to resist the host immune system response.
Dietotherapy function:The food industry uses methyl and ethyl vanillin . Ethyl vanillin is more expensive, but has a stronger note . Cook's Illustrated ran several taste tests pitting vanilla against vanillin in baked goods and other applications, and to the consternation of the magazine editors, tasters could not differentiate the flavor of vanillin from vanilla; however, for the case of vanilla ice cream, natural vanilla won out.