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These articles are dedicated to everyone who loves vanilla and its seductive flavor and aroma. Considering how popular vanilla is and how it’s in so many products, it’s surprising how little most of us know about it.

The Queen hopes you’ll enjoy the articles included here. If you are interested in food history or where your favorite foods come from, consider purchasing, Vanilla: The Cultural History of the World’s Favorite Flavor and Fragrance, available in our store. The Queen has the key to the history of vanilla from Mesoamerica to the moment and she’s honored to share the story with the world!

Imitation (Synthetic) Vanilla

Imitation vanilla comes from synthetic vanillin, which mimics the flavor of natural vanillin, one of the components that gives vanilla its extraordinary bouquet.The first synthetics were made in Germany in the 1870s as pure vanilla was so expensive that only the wealthy could afford it. It was first made from coniferin, the glucoside that makes some pines smell a little like vanilla. In the 1890s a French chemist created a synthetic from euganol, found in cloves. The two most common sources for synthetic vanillin have been Lignin Vanillin, a by-product of the paper industry, which has been chemically treated to

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Tahitian Vanilla Extract

If you have never tried Tahitian vanilla but you like fruity, floral, flavors and aromas, treat yourself to this marvellous extract! Tahitian vanilla (Vanilla tahitensis) did not originate in Tahiti.  It appears that Spaniards brought vanilla plant stock to the southern Philippines, one of its colonial outposts.  Vanilla planifolia was crossed with Vanilla odorata in the sixteenth or seventeenth centuries. This particular plant stock was taken to Tahiti in the early 1800s and planted in Papeete. Missionaries saw the vanilla growing there in the early 1900s and encouraged the Tahitians to grow vanilla for resale.  The original stock has been

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Madagascar and Bourbon Vanilla Extract

Madagascar and Bourbon vanilla are actually the same.  I’ll explain: Vanilla planifolia, is the species of vanilla most commonly used in extracts. Vanilla planifolia stock originated in Mexico, vanilla’s birthplace, but cuttings were taken to other tropical countries beginning in the 1700s. In the 1800s, the French developed large plantations on Reunion, known then as the Ile de Bourbon, which is how the name Bourbon came into being. Although vanilla extract is high in alcohol content, it is not made from Bourbon whiskey. Originally the term Bourbon referred to vanilla beans grown anywhere in the Indian Ocean region. As Vanilla

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Pure Mexican Vanilla

Vanilla Planifolia is the variety of vanilla plant that has fueled the world’s desire for our favorite flavor and fragrance.  It grows naturally in the tropical areas of Mexico, Central America and northern South America as well as in the Caribbean. Until the twentieth century, all the vanilla that came into the United States came from Mexico.  Because Mexico is the birthplace of vanilla, we consumers assume that it must sell the best extracts.  In fact, it doesn’t!  Nearly all of the extracts made and sold in Mexico or in Mexican markets in the US are imitation. Pay no attention

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Vanilla Extract – An Insider’s View

So many vanilla extracts, so many prices. How are they different? How are they made? How do you know if they are pure? There are rules governing vanilla extract production and labeling. Unfortunately, not every company follows the rules. So choosing a great vanilla extract just by looking at the bottles makes this a little tricky.  Here are some guidelines to help you in your quest for the best. Varieties of Vanilla There are more than 300 varieties of vanilla plants growing around the world, but only two species are used commercially.  The one we most often buy is called

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Sugar, Coffee, Chocolate, Vanilla: How Much Do You Know About The Issues Surrounding These Products?

Sugar, Coffee, Chocolate Vanilla: the backbone of the tropical foods economy. Four products that most of us use daily. But, do you know where your morning coffee is grown, or the conditions under which it’s grown? What about that chocolate bar you had yesterday afternoon? Who processed the sugar you sprinkled over your cereal? Is the vanilla in your ice cream natural or synthetic? The truth is, few of us know much about where these food staples are grown, or whether the people who grow them earn enough to feed their families, have schooling available for their children, or have

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Vanilla in Tahiti

There are several styles of vanilla growing in Tahiti. There are traditional family plantations of several hectares or less, where the entire family cares for the vanilla, from planting vines, to pollinating orchids, harvesting and drying the beans, and boxing them for sale. Other traditional farmers simply grow the vanilla, then sell their harvested green beans to specialists who dry and sell beans. The newer shade-house plantations are compact, time-saving ventures where fewer workers are required to manage the entire production cycle. And finally, you’ll frequently see vanilla vines in family gardens where they’re planted as decoration and as a

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The Voladores of Papantla Veracruz

Ask anyone who’s been to Papantla what most impressed them, and they’ll probably say, “The Voladores.” Many people who’ve never been to the Gulf Coast — or even to Mexico – will light up in recognition at the mention of the Voladores. They perform regularly throughout Mexico, Central and South America. They’ve performed in several cities in the United States, and even in Paris and Madrid. So, who are the Voladores, and why are they famous? And what do they have to do with vanilla? Volador means flyer – he who flies. It is breathtaking to watch the spectacle of

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Vanilla and Aromatherapy

Just as “Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out,” was a catch phrase of the 1960s pop subculture, “Calm Down, Feel Good, Lose Weight,” seems to be nearly everyone’s mantra in the first years of the new millennium. For many of us, the hectic pace of modern life leaves us anxious and exhausted, and all too often, too tired and cranky to take time for the exercise that might lift our spirits. While there is no elixir that will magically cure all that ails us, nor a perfect panacea for our harried lives, there is some useful help available as close

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Vanilla Dreams

His name is Jim Reddekopp and his enthusiasm is catching.  His face lights up when he tells the story of how he and his family came to the Big Island from their Oahu home to grow vanilla orchid vines on the Hamakua Coast. Looking for a business that would bring them in contact with the earth, Jim and his wife Tracy latched on to the idea that was thrown at them during a family discussion. Thinking that this was finally the way to work toward their dream of having a business where the whole family, including their five children, could

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Veracruz: In the Land of the Vanilla Orchid

Written by Courtenay Dunk: www.spicelines.com    I have come to Veracruz to glimpse the elusive vanilla orchid on the vine, to catch the rich scent of glossy beans curing in the sun, to breathe in the fragrance of the world’s finest vanilla in its Mexican birthplace. Everything up to this point has been a sort of lagniappe, as the Creoles say, a delicious extra. Such is the nature of obsession. It is about 10:30 AM and as usual, the sun is brutally hot and the air thick with moisture. Norma Gaya is driving the three of us—Susana, Deborah and myself—down

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Legend of Vanilla

In early times, the Land of the Resplendent Moon, was the kingdom of Totonocopan, ruled by the Totonacas. The palm-studded sands, verdant valleys, and shimmering hills and sierra in what is now known as Vera Cruz, were overseen from several locations. One was Papantla, place of the papan birds. Another was El Tajin, the thunder bolt, an ancient Huaxtecan city built in honor of the deity, Hurakan, god of the storms. It was here in this dense, tropical rainforest that vanilla was first cultivated and cured. It was here that the fragrance from the vanilla was so exquisite, that Papantla

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How to Select and Use Vanilla Beans

Vanilla beans – those pricey, fragrant, dried seedpods that offer no easy clue about how to use them – are native to tropical America. There are over 150 varieties of vanilla orchids (there are 27 varieties in South Florida alone), but only two species are used commercially to flavor and fragrance foods and beverages– Bourbon and Tahitian. Bourbon vanilla beans Bourbon vanilla beans are botanically known as Vanilla planifolia or Vanilla fragrans and originally came from the Gulf Coast of Mexico. When grown in Mexico they’re called Mexican beans. On the other hand, beans from the same plant stock are

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Vanilla’s Magical Qualities

Much more than just an ingredient in baked goods, vanilla is a magical flavoring that can do wonders for most foods and beverages.  It’s also very useful in calming our minds and bodies and helping us to feel good.  Here are some thoughts and suggestions for making use of vanilla’s magic.   For instance, did you know that vanilla is… an antacid? Add a few drops to pineapple, fruit salads, or sauces containing citrus to soften the sharpness and give it extra sweetening.  Put a little vanilla in tomato sauces to neutralize the acidity. a lifter and enhancer? Add vanilla to

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History of Vanilla

Vanilla is the only edible fruit of the orchid family, the largest family of flowering plants in the world. It’s a tropical orchid, and there are more than 150 varieties of vanilla, though only two types – Bourbon and Tahitian — are used commercially. Vanilla grows within the 20-degree band either side of the Equator and is native to the Americas. The vanilla you know best, Vanilla planifolia (also known as fragrans), traditionally grew wild on the Atlantic Gulf side of Mexico from Tampico around to the northeast tip of South America, and from Colima, Mexico to Ecuador on the Pacific side.

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I was given a small bottle of Rain’s Choice in a gift basket and I have been hooked ever since. The flavor makes all of my baking so much better! I will never use grocery store vanilla again!

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