Vanilla is a spice derived from orchids of the genus Vanilla, primarily obtained from pods of the Mexican species, flat-leaved vanilla (V. planifolia).
The word vanilla, derived from vainilla, the diminutive of the Spanish word vaina (vaina itself meaning a sheath or a pod), is translated simply as “little pod”.
Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican people cultivated the vine of the vanilla orchid, called tlīlxochitl by the Aztecs.
Vanilla is the second-most expensive spice after saffron because growing the vanilla seed pods is labor-intensive. Nevertheless, vanilla is widely used in both commercial and domestic baking, perfume manufacture, and aromatherapy.
The four main commercial preparations of natural vanilla are:
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).
Vanilla sugar : a packaged mix of sugar and vanilla extract
Other names :