America’s Favorite Flavor: Vanilla

Vanilla Beans laying over a bowl of sugar.
Aah, the elusive scent of Vanilla…a treasured ingredient in cakes and ice cream, perfumes and medicines. Valued for its intoxicating flavor and aroma, as well as the difficulty in skill that is required to cultivate this beautiful spice. Vanilla pods comes from from the vine of a vanilla orchid, This delicate plant must be pollinated by hand to allow for the vanilla pod to grow and pollination is a learned skill. Many farmers have been growing vanilla for three to four generations. Because of the difficulty and skill needed to grow vanilla, most vanilla we consume today is artificial vanilla flavoring.

While “experts” in the food industry will claim that you cannot tell the different between real vanilla and imitation vanilla, we beg to differ. In our creation labs here at Country Girl USA, we always can tell the different when using real beans.

Vanilla Bean Types

There are two types of vanilla beans – Planifolia and Tahitensis. The first type of vanilla bean, Planifolia originates from Madagascar and can also come from Indonesia as well as other parts of the world. This is the flavor profile used in most traditional vanilla flavorings. Planifolia vanilla also has the nickname Madagascar Bourbon or Bourbon beans due to its molasses-like consistency.   The second kind of vanilla is Tahitensis. Most commonly referred to as Tahitian vanilla bean, Tahitensis is a mutation of Planifolia with a more sweet floral flavor. Because these beans are produced more rarely, they are signifigantly more expensive than beans grown in other places in the world, but absolutely delicious.

What Is The Best Grade?

Now that we understand the types of vanilla bean, how do we pick the grade? Well, there are two grades of vanilla bean that most people are familiar with:  Grade A (Prime Gourmet) and Grade B. Grade A has about 30%-35% moisture ,is very dark in color, and easily cut.

Grade B on the other hand is usually used for extract and only has about 20% moisture. These beans are much smaller with imperfections like cracks and splits but are no less flavorful.  When cooking and baking, Grade A should be used for cooking and Grade B should be used for making vanilla extract.

Vanilla Uses

The many uses of vanilla are surprisingly overlooked. It can be used  in all sorts of recipes, from baking to even sauces and salad dressings.

For baking, it is most suggested to use vanilla seeds, but the pods themselves have a lot of flavor as well. When you’re making something that calls for vanilla beans, you want to use the whole thing. Once the seeds have been scraped out of the bean you don’t have to throw it away. Instead you can use the pods to infuse milk or cream with a subtle vanilla flavor, or stick them in a jar of sugar to make vanilla-scented sugar.

Vanilla extract is also a popular way to use vanilla beans. This ingredient is made by steeping vanilla pods in alcohol and water. It is most often used for desserts like cakes, cookies, brownies, and cupcakes, ice creams, and puddings. However, unlike vanilla extract, beans don’t last forever. But, if stored correctly, vanilla beans can last anywhere from six months to three years without losing their potency.

Why Use Real Vanilla?

The creation of inexpensive vanilla flavoring comes with an environmental cost. The production of these compounds “creates a stream of wastewater that requires treatment before it can be released into surface water. There is concern of what these catalysts will do in the human body. Also, tn reaching for the real thing we support the farmers who carefully nurture, pollinate and harvest the crop. Not to mention that wholesome, simple food is always best for ourselves.

This is why we source and supply small farm vanilla beans to our customers. We make sure that our beans are fresh and have been supplied by the small village farmer who takes the time to nurture the plants resulting in a better bean. Click here to view our current stock and try your hand at cooking with fresh, real vanilla. 




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