Vanila Beans / Vanila Seeds / Vanila Powder
Vanilla beans (Vanilla planifolia) are long thin pods from a variety of orchid that's grown in a commercial scale in Madagascar, India, Indonesia, Puerto Rico and the West Indies. When opened, the pods are waxy and dark, filled with little brown specks and emit a sweet fragrance.
There are three types of vanilla beans: Bourbon-Madagascar, Mexican and Tahitian. Bourbon-Madagascar vanilla is a thin pod with a rich and sweet flavor, the sweetest of the three.
Mexican vanilla tastes smooth and rich, while Tahitian vanilla has the thickest and darkest-colored pod that's aromatic but not as flavorful as the two. Vanilla beans have no flavor or aroma when they are first planted. Once vanilla pods are handpicked from the plant, they are dipped immediately in boiling water to stop growth, heated under the sun and wrapped to sweat at night for up to 20 days.
To develop that distinct vanilla scent and taste, pods are air-dried and fermented for four to six months, producing the vanilla beans most of us are familiar with.