vanilla ice creamVanilla Ice Cream is always in fashion. Click here for my rich and creamy, custard base recipe.

One of the easiest and quickest recipes for vanilla ice cream. Click here for this easy recipe.

About Vanilla

vanilla podsWhat is vanilla?
Vanilla is the bean of a climbing orchid (the only fruit-bearing member of the orchid family) and vanilla beans are usually hand-pollinated and grown on family plantations where the cultivation process can take as long as 6 years (it is harvested just once a year). It is the beans, which are dark brown, long and thin, that hold the flavor of the vanilla plant. When first picked, they have no fragrance or taste but after the process of drying and curing they develop the unmistakable aroma that we associate with vanilla.

Where is vanilla grown?
Vanilla is mainly grown in just 4 countries: Madagascar, Indonesia, Mexico and Tahiti, though there is a limited amount also cultivated in Uganda, Jamaica, Costa Rica and India. Madagascar grows about 60 per cent of the world's vanilla and hence sets the price for the commodity on the open market.

The value of vanilla
Vanilla is in fact classed as a spice and next to saffron and cardamom, it is the world's third most expensive spice. Producing vanilla is labour intensive - one of the reasons why imitation vanilla was developed, currently costing about 10 per cent of the price of real vanilla.

The taste of vanilla
The taste can vary depending upon the country of origin, the cultivation process, maturity when harvested and the drying and curing process used. Vanilla pods are very versatile and can be used not only to flavor confectionery, cookies, custards, puddings and ice cream but to improve the taste of savoury dishes too. A trace of vanilla can be used as seasoning for creamed vegetables and fish soups for example and can also help in salad dressings.

Vanilla consumption
The USA consumes over half the world's vanilla and it remains the favorite flavor of ice cream in that country.

Storing vanilla
Vanilla should be stored at room temperature, not in a freezer or cooler of any kind. If you store vanilla beans in sugar, after 2 to 3 weeks the sugar tastes of vanilla and can be used in coffee or in other recipes. One of the best ways of storing whole vanilla is to place it in sugar in fact inside a sealed container. If stored properly vanilla beans will keep for well over a year.