Friday, October 1, 2010

Vanilla Plant

Vanilla is the name given both to a genus of tropical orchids and to the flavor extract obtained from the fruit pods of several of its species. The best and most important commercial extract is obtained from V. Flanifolia, Which, like other member of the genus, is a climbing vine with aerial roots and fragrant, greenish yellow flowers. The Aztecs introduced Spanish explores to vanilla in the early 16th century, and soon afterward it became popular in Europe.

In the native habitat vanilla is pollinated by bees and possibly hummingbirds, this yield a fruit set of only about 1 percent. When cultivated outside Central America, where its natural pollinators do not exist, vanilla normally does not set any fruit. Today vanilla bean are produced by hand pollination with a wooden needle. The harvested, unripe, golden green bean are cured by alternating night sweating with daily sun drying, which produced the characteristic flavor and aroma. The curing process continuous for 10 to 20 days, after each the bean are bundled for drying and development of the full aroma. This curing and drying requires about 4 to 5 months. The resulting bean is wrinkled and chocolate colored.

The flavor and odor of the extract come partially from a white crystalline aldehyde, vanilin, which develops, during the curing process. Vanilla beans, vanilla extracts and tinctures (alcoholic extracts), and vanilla resinoids (hydrocarbon solvent extracts) are the foremost food flavors for ice cream, pudding, cakes, chocolates, baked goods, syrups, candles, liqueurs, tobacco, and soft drinks. Vanilla tincture is also used in perfumes. Vanilla is now produced artificially from eugenol (derived from clove stem only) or from acid hydrolysis from lignin (wood).

Find Other Vegetables and Fruits