We all know the familiar flavor of vanilla. From ice cream to baked goods, vanilla has been used to flavor our favorite sweet treats, but where does this delicious flavor come from. It all begins with the vanilla bean.
Vanilla comes from a orchids of the genus Vanilla. Originally, the vanilla orchid was grown in regions of Mexico and Guatemala. Today, the major species is now grown around the world in hot and wet tropical climates.
The flat-leaved vanilla is the only vanilla orchid used for flavoring products such as foods and beverages. This vine-like plant grows up trees and an form long thin stems with a length of more than 100 feet.
In order to get the sweet flavor we love to add to our food, the long thin orchid pods are picked before they are fully ripe. Once picked, the pods ripen gradually for anywhere from 8 to 9 months after flowering, eventually turning black in color and giving off a strong aroma.
Inside the ripened vanilla pod lives tiny black seeds, which we commonly refer to as the vanilla beans. The seeds are scraped from the pod and used to make delicious vanilla flavoring in the form of extract.