Vanilla Bean Powder
Vanilla beans are pleasantly fragrant fruit pods obtained from the tropical climbing orchid, V. planifolia. Mayans were the first people to use them in chocolate drinks as a flavoring agent centuries before the Spanish first set their foot in Mexico in 1520. This highly prized bean pod is native to the tropical rainforests of Central America, and only recently its cultivation has spread to other tropical regions through the European explorers.
Unripe vanilla pods are harvested when they reach 5-8 inches in length and begin to turn light-yellow. They are then blanched briefly in boiling water, sweated, and dried under the sun over a period of 2-3 weeks until they become dark-brown shriveled pods.
- The chief chemical component in the beans is vanillin. The pods also comprise of numerous traces of other constituents such as eugenol, caproic acid, phenoles, phenol ether, alcohols, carbonyl compounds, acids, ester, lactones, aliphatic and aromatic carbohydrates and vitispiranes.
- Ancient Mayans believed that adding vanilla in drinks would give aphrodisiac effects. No modern research study, however, establishes its role in the treatment of sexual dysfunctions.
- Its extract contains small amounts of B-complex groups of vitamins such as niacin, pantothenic acid, thiamin, riboflavin and vitamin B-6. These vitamins help in enzyme synthesis, nervous system function and regulating body metabolism.
- This condiment spice also contains small traces of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, manganese, iron and zinc. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps control heart rate and blood pressure.
Vanilla beans are one of the expensive non-pungent spices used especially as a flavoring agent in a wide array of sweet drinks and confectionaries.