Vanilla is a flavouring derived from the seed pods of the vanilla plant, a vining orchid native to Madagascar & Central and South America.
The vanilla orchid, also known as Vanilla Planifolia, is believed to have originated in the region of modern-day Mexico and was used by the ancient Aztecs in their cooking and as a medicinal plant. The vanilla orchid was first brought to Europe by the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés in the early 16th century. It was initially used as a flavouring agent in chocolate, which was a popular drink among the Spanish elite at the time.
The seed pods, or beans, are harvested from the plant and cured, a process that turns them from green to a deep brown color.
Vanilla beans are then dried and used to produce a wide range of products, including vanilla extract, vanilla sugar, vanilla paste, vanilla oil, vanilla salt and vanilla powder.
The flavour of vanilla is described as warm, rich, and sweet, and it is used in a variety of sweet and savory dishes, as well as in perfumes and other products.
Today, vanilla is widely cultivated in many tropical regions around the world for its fragrant, flavor-rich beans, which are used as a flavouring agent in a variety of foods and beverages.