Vanilla is among the most expensive and most popular spice in the world. Due to this, some people frequently use whole vanilla beans in the kitchen. Since the market floods with imitation vanilla extracts, most people find authentic vanilla as an expensive luxury.
There are different types of vanilla beans. Amazingly, there is no perfect substitute for high-quality whole vanilla beans. They have an intense flavor that significantly enhances the quality of your desserts and baking.
Based or research, 76% of American consumers purchase organic food, such as vanilla beans, because of the health benefits associated with them.
Precisely, a vanilla bean is an orchid fruit, native to Central America. The production and preparation process of vanilla beans is complex. First, the orchid requires hand-pollination. After nine months, the beans are grown and ripe. They are hand-picked and sun-dried, and at night, they are wrapped with woolen cloth to allow them to sweat. This complex process leads to the high-price of vanilla.
Types of Vanilla Beans
Most of the whole vanilla beans originate from Madagascar, Mexico, and Papua New Guinea. The following is a list of the types of vanilla beans:
1. Madagascar or Bourbon Vanilla Beans
This type of vanilla beans grows in Madagascar, and the West Indian Island of Reunion, initially called the Island of Bourbon. It is the most common type of vanilla beans. Its flavors are strong, sweet, rich, and creamy. The flavor is best in baked goods as it compliments rather than dominate the dish, especially the baked products. It is the best type of vanilla bean paste and vanilla extract to be kept in the pantry.
2. Mexican Vanilla Beans
This type originated from Mexico, and its pods are thicker than other varieties. It is smokey, dark, bold, and richer than Madagascar vanilla. It also has a stronger fragrance, and it’s the best in recipes where starring is the primary role of vanilla.
3. Tahitian Vanilla Beans
This type of vanilla bean originates from the French Polynesian island of Tahiti. It is floral and cherry-chocolate. It has less vanillin than Madagascar and Mexican vanilla beans. It has a floral, sweeter, cherry-chocolate, fruity, and licorice taste. The Tahitian vanilla beans pod is thicker than Madagascar variety and has fewer seeds. It has a unique taste that makes it an excellent choice for dishes that use vanilla as the main flavor.
4. Indian Vanilla Beans
This variety is the least common when compared to Madagascar, Mexican, and Tahitian vanilla beans. However, it has a sweet, creamy, and extremely aromatic flavor. These vanilla beans fit in most recipes as Madagascar vanilla beans.
5. Tonga Vanilla Beans
Tonga vanilla beans originate from the Tonga Kingdom which is made of a couple of island groups found in South Pacific. Due to the Tonga rich fertile soils, these beans and are superior and incredibly aromatic with intense flavor. Gourmet chocolate makers mostly use this variety due to the bold and sharp flavor.
How to Use Vanilla Beans
For the maximum gain from the use of whole vanilla beans in cooking, you should first buy the best quality vanilla beans that you can find. Good vanilla beans have long, dark, wrinkly, and moist pods. Never worry about white crystals in and out of the pod, they are crystallized vanillin.
To use a vanilla bean, use a sharp knife to cut into half and scrape out the sticky black seeds. Don’t throw the pod away; you can simmer it in cream for pudding or custard. The seeds have the most robust vanilla flavor. If you aren’t using the empty, consider putting it in a jar of granulated sugar for some weeks to make vanilla sugar. Alternatively, lay the pods over half pieces of fruits and bake them in an oven for a delicious dessert.
Vanilla beans are unique and special ingredients that are worth the price. If you haven’t experienced what whole vanilla beans offer in the kitchen, you need to buy some from a reputable spice dealer and give them a try.
You are likely to toss out the artificial vanilla extract little bottle for good.