Welcome to Hopes & Dreams, an inspirational and fun-filled website dedicated to those planting the seed of hope and encouragement. Inside you’ll find fascinating articles about God’s awesome creations, imaginative games and creativity for all. A place to sow; a place to grow.

Vanilla Bean

 

The vanilla bean is a product of the Vanilla Orchid. This particular orchid is a vine that climbs high into the trees in tropical climates such as Central America, Madagascar, Indonesia, and Mexico. 

Vanilla plant and green pod in the forest

The Vanilla Orchid produces flowers that bloom for only one day. For this reason commercial growers assist in the tedious process by hand pollinating each flower to ensure a bountiful harvest.  If successfully pollinated during this small window of time, a pod will begin to form, birthing what we commonly known as the vanilla bean.  

Closeup of The Vanilla flower on plantation. Agriculture in tropical climate. Picture with space for your text.

The beans are ready for harvesting in approximately six to nine months after pollination when they’ve reached seven to nine inches in length. After picking, the beans are placed in a dark, airtight container to induce sweating and then taken out for only a few hours each morning to dry in the sun.  This daily routine lasts approximately six weeks until the bean is completely dry.  Once the drying process has been achieved, an additional three months storage in a dark, airtight container is needed in order to achieve the optimal flavor we know as vanilla. As wine, the older the bean, the stronger the flavor.  

Vanilla sticks with a flower on a white wooden table.

It is after picking that the bean gradually becomes brown during the drying process.

 

There are several ways to use vanilla:

  1. The substance on the inside of the bean is the seed, and there are thousands.  They are commonly  referred to as vanilla caviar due to appearance.   The flavorable vanilla bean seeds can be scraped out of the pod and placed directly into desserts like ice cream and cheese cake.

    inside the vanilla pod, knife scraping the seeds, macro shot with selected focus and narrow depth of field

  2. The bean itself has flavor even after the  internal seeds have been scraped out.  Keep the empty pod and use it in a recipe for flavoring desserts by cutting them into small pieces and allowing them to simmer, just as you would a bay leaf.                    
  3. The liquid form of vanilla is called extract and can be purchased in the spice aisle of your local grocer. The extract can also be made at home by using a combination of alcohol and vanilla bean and allowing them to infuse in a cool dark place over a period of a few month                   

 

While the process of achieving the exquisite flavor of vanilla is lengthy and requires much tender loving care, it is well worth the wait to deliver the sweet reward contained within this wonderful little not so “plain vanilla” green bean.

 

References

http://homeguides.sfgate.com/vanilla-bean-plant-58942.html

How Vanilla Beans are Harvested and Dried #560

http://varanashi.com/vanilla_processing.html

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