Out of the 20,000 Orchid varieties in the world, vanilla is the only orchid that is used as a food additive. Scientifically known as Vanilla Planifolia, the spice is native to Mexico and Central America. Vanillin is the main component found in Vanilla which emphasizes its flavour and pleasing fragrance. The commercial value of the vanilla beans is also determined based on its aroma and flavour. Vanilla is available in the forms of beans, powder, paste, extract, and oil.
The second most expensive spice in the world, Vanilla is indigenous to Mexico, where the flowers are naturally pollinated by small Melipona honey bees and two species of hummingbirds native to Mexico.
This strictly unique pollination method of vanilla flower provided Mexico with a 300-year long monopoly over global vanilla trade until manual pollination was first discovered by a 12-year-old slave named Edmond Albius in now Mauritius Islands.
Like with other orchid varieties vanilla seeds do not germinate without mycorrhizal fungi. Therefore, vanilla cultivators in Sri Lanka and around the world grow and reproduce the plant by cutting.
USES OF VANILLA
Natural Vanilla is available in four main preparations, namely; whole pod, powder or grounded pods, vanilla extracts, vanilla sugar, or vanilla oleoresins. It is widely used in food and beverage and personal care industries
FOOD AND BEVERAGE INDUSTRY
One of the most popular food flavourings in the world, natural vanilla extracts, power, and pod are widely used in the food and beverage industry. Bourbon vanilla is used in a wide range of food and beverages across the world from confectionaries, baked goods, pastries to chocolate, cocoa, coffee and tea. Vanilla’s ability to enhance the other flavours and add a sweet fragrance makes it is a versatile addition to any dish or dessert.
PERSONAL CARE AND COSMETIC INDUSTRY
Although natural vanilla absolutes and vanilla oleoresins are rarely used in personal care and cosmetic industry to manufacture candles, soaps, and other scented speciality merchandise most of the high street products tend to contain synthetic vanillin due to the very high price of natural vanilla absolute.