I don’t know about you, but I love the smell and flavor of vanilla. The number one flavor of ice cream is vanilla. I remember drinking Cream soda all the time when I was a kid, and here recently, Coca Cola came out with a Vanilla Coke.
Try adding some ground vanilla into your favorite sweet rub next time, and see if you don’t find it a really awesome addition to the flavor of your meat!
Here’s some information I dug up on vanilla:
According to Wikipedia, Vanilla is a flavoring derived from orchids of the genus Vanilla native to Mexico.
Vanilla is the second most expensive spice after saffron, due to the extensive labor required to grow the vanilla seed pods. Despite the expense, it is highly valued for its flavor. Despite its high cost, vanilla is widely used in both commercial and domestic baking, perfume manufacture and aromatherapy.
In general, good vanilla will only come from good vines. To achieve such high quality, much labor is required. The vanilla bean grows quickly on the vine but is not ready for harvest until maturity — approximately ten months. Harvesting vanilla beans is as labor intensive as pollinating the blossoms. Immature dark green pods are not harvested. Each bean ripens at its own time, requiring a daily harvest.
The vegetative tissue of the vanilla pod is killed to prevent further growing. To prevent rotting and to lock the aroma in the pods, the pods are dried. Often, pods are laid out in the sun during the mornings and returned to their boxes in the afternoons. When 25-30% of the pods’ weight is moisture (as opposed to the 60-70% they began drying with) they have completed the curing process and will exhibit their fullest aromatic qualities. This reduction in moisture content is achieved by spreading the beans on a wooden rack in a room for three to four weeks.
There are three main commercial preparations of natural vanilla:
- whole pod
- powder (ground pods, kept pure or blended with sugar, starch or other ingredients)
- extract (in alcoholic or occasionally glycerol solution, both pure and imitation forms of vanilla contain at least 35% alcohol)
In old medicinal literature, vanilla is described as an aphrodisiac and a remedy for fevers. These purported uses have never been scientifically proven, but it has been shown that vanilla does increase levels of catecholamines (including adrenaline), and as such can also be considered mildly addictive.
In an in-vitro test, vanilla was able to block quorum sensing in bacteria. This is medically interesting because in many bacteria quorum sensing signals function as a switch for virulence. The microbes only become virulent when the signals indicate that they have the numbers to resist the host immune system response.
The essential oils of vanilla and vanillin are sometimes used in aromatherapy.