Vanilla is a flavoring derived from the fruits of the Vanilla orchid, a native plant of Mexico. The Mexican vanilla bean is a thicker and darker bean that has a smooth, strong, rich fragrance and flavor.
Originally cultivated by Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican peoples what is modern-day Mexico, the Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes is credited with introducing both vanilla and chocolate to Europe in the 1520s.
Vanilla is the second most expensive spice [after saffron], due to the extensive labor required to hand-pollinate and grow the vanilla seed pods.
Use vanilla to enhance the flavor of other delicious dishes with complementary tastes, such as chocolate, custards, caramel, coffee, and cakes.
Extracts, whether vanilla, lemon, almond or another flavor, are made by mixing a concentrated flavor with alcohol. The alcohol burns off during cooking or baking, leaving behind only the desired flavor in your cooking.