Vanilla Bean Whole, 1/4 Lb.

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The flavoring agent we know as vanilla comes from the dried fruit of a Mexican species of vanilla orchid. Also known as Flat-Leaved Vanilla and West Indian Vanilla, this climbing, vine-like plant naturally occurs in Central America and is commercially cultivated in Madagascar.

In addition to its culinary value, vanilla is widely used in perfumery and cosmetics because of its exotic and spicy aroma.

quick look

information at a glance

approximate cups to one poundapprox 24 beans per 1/4 pound
active compoundsCured fruit, Protein, sugars, lignocellulosic fibers, cellulose, organic acids, vanillin and other monohydroxyphenols, fixed oil, wax, resin, gum, pigments, tannins, minerals, volatile aromatics and essential oil
plant part usedfruit

buying & keeping

general guidelines and tips

storage tipsStore in a tightly sealed container away from strong light, heat and humidity.
appearance & aromaElongated pods with a sweet, spicy aroma.


try something new

decorativeUse in botanical displays and herbal crafts.
culinaryScrape the seeds out to flavor puddings, ice cream, tapioca and other foods. The whole pods may also be tinctured in strong alcohol and aged to produce vanilla extract.
aromaticUse the delicate seeds to produce perfumes, fragrance oils and incense.
industrialVanilla is used in the food and fragrance industries.

some recommendations

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[ cardamom ]

[ tip: Combine with whole cardamom pods in tea blends, including herbal chai.  ~ from Monterey Bay Herb Company ]

Combine with whole cardamom pods in tea blends, including herbal chai.

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[ cinnamon ]

[ tip: Use with ground cinnamon in sweet foods and baked goods.  ~ from Monterey Bay Herb Company ]

Use with ground cinnamon in sweet foods and baked goods.

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flavor profile

vanilla beans

The spicy-sweet flavor of vanilla pairs well with warm, aromatic spices like cardamom and cinnamon.

formulas & recipes

vanilla beans

Herbal Spa
DIY Lavender Vanilla Perfume Recipe

what else you should know

vanilla beans

Vanilla is a flowering vine in the orchid family that is native to Mexico and naturalized in the West Indies and Central America. The vanilla "bean" is actually a pod that contains several tiny but highly aromatic and flavorful seeds.

These prized seeds are used to add warm, spicy flavor to cakes, cookies, quick breads and other baked goods, as well as in ice cream, puddings and other sweet treats. Whole vanilla pods are infused in alcohol to produce the familiar vanilla extract used for flavoring and in perfumery.

Aroma and flavor constituents include volatiles such as aromatic carbonyls, aromatic alcohols, aromatic acids, aromatic esters, phenols and phenol ethers, aliphatic alcohols, carbonyls, acids, esters and lactones, aromatic hydrocarbons, terpenoids, aliphatic hydrocarbons and heterocyclics. During the curing process the glucoside coniferin changes to coniferyl alcohol and then into vanillin.

Background: Collected in the wild by the native tribes of southern Mexico for thousands of years prior to their domination by the Aztecs, vanilla was rare and considered a precious commodity. The pod or bean grows on orchids in the genus Vanilla. Of the 35,000 or more species of this family, the vanilla orchid produces the only edible fruit.The common name is from the Spanish word vainilla, (little sheath) the Aztec name was tlilxochitl. tlilli (black) and xóchitl (flower.) The pod is black. The flower is pale greenish-yellow. The main species harvested for vanillin is Vanilla planifolia.

Papantla, Mexico is considered to be the origination point of vanilla. The wild plant is abundant  in the Mexican States of Vera Cruz and Oaxaca. It is now cultivated throughout the tropics. Madagascar is the world's largest producer. Additional sources include Vanilla pompona and Vanilla tahitiensis. Each contains a lower vanillin content than Vanilla planifolia.

Vanilla as a vine grows by climbing an existing tree, pole, or other. Unattended it will reach to 80 feet and feature few flowers. Seasonally, the plant is trained to maintain heights accessible for pollination and collection purposes which also stimulates its flowering.

Vanilla planifolia flowers are hermaphrodite: they carry anther (male) and stigma (female) with a membrane separating the two. Insect pollination is the work of one special bee thriving only in Mexico. Attempts to adapt the bee to other locations have failed. The species of orchid most cultivated worldwide to satisfy the large consumer demand for vanilla flavor is Vanilla planifolia.

Pollination by humans has provided the solution and was first documented for western cultivation practices in 1840. Developed on Réunion island by a child, a 12 year-old enslaved boy, it involved using a bevelled sliver of bamboo and the delicate handwork of folding back the membrane which separates anther from stigma, then pressing the anther onto the stigma to achieve a timely pollination and so, the controlled production of the pod. The flower in full bloom is present for as few as 40 hours, so plants are examined daily. The pods reach their full size in five weeks to eight months, depending upon altitude and shade. Ripening is seen when slight yellowing of the pod occurs. They are picked, sorted, and curing begins. Further ripening causes pods to split and deteriorate. Fresh vanilla fruit lacks the familiar vanilla aroma which is developed during the curing process. Considered sweet, spicy, woody with balsamic notes, vanilla is a cherished flavor, standard in particular cakes and many other baked items, ice creams, coffees and chocolates, whipped creams, milk and grain milks, desserts, liqueurs.

For flavoring tofu, custard, tapioca or rice: Slit bean down the center and introduce into the liquid early in the cooking.

Description: A tall, perennial climbing epiphyte, with a long, smooth, dark green stem, much branched, and furnished at the nodes with aerial roots, which cling to the tree or the wooden framework supporting the plant. The dark green, tough leaves are alternate oval, sessile, attenuate at  the apex, fleshy and veinless. The pale greenish-yellow, sessile flowers are about two inches in diameter, and occur in loose, axillary racemes of twenty or more blossoms.

Whole vanilla bean: Fruit (pod or bean) is linear, flattened, with apex terminating in a flat circular scar; gradually tapering, curved or hooked at the base. Externally black-brown, longitudinally wrinkled, moist-glossy; with an efflorescence of vanillin as acicular crystals or prisms; frequently with narrow, elliptical or irregular, wrinkled, dark-brown patches of cork, occasionally split into three parts near tip, flexible, containing a blackish brown pulp and numerous black-brown, flattened seeds.

for educational purposes only

This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

please be advised: 
Before making any changes to your diet you should always consult with your doctor,
especially if you are pregnant, nursing or have existing conditions.