Q:

Where does vanilla come from?

A:

Quick Answer

Vanilla comes from the bean of a specific type of orchid. Of the 35,000 orchid species native to the rainforests of Central and South America, only the fruit of the vanilla orchid, whose scientific name is Vanilla planifolia, is actually edible.

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Full Answer

The fruit of the vanilla orchid is a pod that contains peas. The vanilla plant is a climbing vine that can grow up to 30 meters tall if left unchecked. When mature, the beans have a dark brown color, and the plant's peas are blackish. Once picked, the pods do not produce the characteristic aroma of vanilla; only the curing process can bring out the vanilla scent. Curing vanilla bean produces the substance vanillin, which is the chemical that gives vanilla its flavor. The curing process consists of drying the beans in a warm environment over a period of three or four months. The beans are ready when they are flexible.

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