It’s all in the beans! Vanilla beans are one of the most expensive spices on Earth. The reason they are so expensive is simple: there are few production areas and it takes a long time to grow new vanilla orchids.
Vanilla orchids are harvested by hand by workers who have to pick exactly the right moment when the pods are at their prime before they go into full flower. They then have to be cured for months before being used in baking, ice cream, drinks etc. The quality is measured by the number of beans per pod. There are several types of vanilla beans: Bourbon, Tahitian and Mexican.
The vanilla orchid used to be an exotic spice brought back from the West Indies by home cooks in the 19th century. Nowadays growers are cultivating orchids on certain islands in Madagascar and Mexico, using new techniques such as flooding the fields with artificial light to improve pollination rates. There are more than 17,000 farmers producing vanilla each year.
Why Are Vanilla Beans So Expensive?
Vanilla is one of the most perishable spices on Earth. The dried pods from the Orchids (sometimes called ‘beans’) grow on tall and delicate stalks. They are picked by hand when at their prime and then cured for months before being used in baking, ice cream, drinks etc. In order for them to be of good quality they must be harvested at just the right moment. When the pod is first picked there is still a lot of green skin on the outside but after a while this becomes brown and soft, which hardens as it gets drier. The beans should be plump and symmetrical on each pod.
The Vanilla-bean plants are very sensitive to weather changes. Therefore, when they are picked they must be taken to the curing room and dried in the sun with heat or under artificial light. The heat helps develop their aroma so that when they are used in cooking, vanilla extract and other products it will smell perfectly normal. They then have to be stored for months before being sold so that the beans will keep well.
Vanilla is a very expensive spice as a result of this long and costly journey from field to container. It is for this reason that pricing varies depending on the type of vanilla bean. As a result, more than 500 ml of alcohol is required for every 1 kg of beans!! This ratio is only met by very high-quality premium brands.
Natural vanilla contains 13.3 per cent alcohol, which makes it very expensive, which is why the average price of a bottle of pure vanilla extract is around $60! You’d be forgiven for thinking that pure vanilla extract would be the only way to get a good hit of the spice, but don’t worry, there are several alternative ways to try it out: unsweetened baker’s chocolate and clove cigarettes are well-known favourites.
Vanilla is so expensive because growing new vanilla orchids takes a long time and requires a lot of hard work from farmers. Also, because there are limited growing areas it makes all the beans much more expensive.
Vanilla, derived from the Mexican word “vanilla”, meaning “little pod”. It is native to Mexico and South America. Vanilla has a sweet aroma and is used as an additive or a flavoring in various foods and beverages such as ice cream, pudding, baked goods, etc.
The name vanilla comes from the Latin word for “vain”. This name was applied by Spanish explorers who were imitating their pronunciation of the Aztec word for vanilla, vicil. Vanilla extract is made by mixing alcohol with pure vanilla extract. The extract is then filtered to remove any impurities that come from the beans themselves.
Are vanilla beans worth it?
Vanilla comes from an orchid that is believed to have been first cultivated in 1520 by Spanish conquerors. The Aztecs made vanilla a sacred plant, and it was the main ingredient in their beverages and dishes. Vanilla is produced by hand, over a very long period of time. The beans are picked from the centre of the flower, on new growth, when they are unripe and green—fully green pods are very difficult to pick. They may retain their crispness for many months in storage. This gives them a deep vanilla flavour which cannot be duplicated by other extracts, however nice they may taste!
Vanilla extract comes from extracting alcohol from the beans. It tends to have a less intense flavour than vanilla beans, however it has been described as being more vegetal and tangy, which is not really what we want from vanilla.
Vanilla beans are a real must-have for the the confectioner or chocolate maker. It is worth noting that the process of making vanilla extract is far more laborious than simply curing the flowers.
Why are vanilla beans so expensive right now?
Although the demand for vanilla has been growing since Vanilla was first introduced in the 1930’s, the market is now experiencing a supply issue. Vanilla beans are expensive because there are only four major growing areas in the world: Madagascar, Papua New Guinea, Mexico, and Tahiti (French Polynesia). The beans from these areas are highly desirable due to their different flavors and bright colour. The problem is that there are few growers producing them.
Due to this shortage and the rising demand for vanilla, prices have risen steeply over recent years – up 85% between 1997-2006 alone! This is mainly caused by a rapid increase in production of other products such as vanilla extract.
The good news for vanilla bean consumers is that due to the dwindling supply, and there being no new sources for growth, the price should stay high for at least a few years.
This should mean that you can enjoy a well-flavoured dinner at home, or just get some chocolate to go with it – so why not treat yourself?
According to the World of Vanilla, vanilla is the second most expensive spice in the world, behind saffron. In fact, it’s even more expensive than gold! But that doesn’t stop people from cooking with vanilla. This extract is what gives baked goods such as cakes and cookies their distinctive flavor and aroma.
When should vanilla be used?
Vanilla is considered an essential ingredient in a variety of recipes. Some of the most popular include cakes, cookies, pastry cream, and sauces. However, vanilla can be used as a spice in almost all kinds of recipes.
What can I do with my extra vanilla beans?
You may have bought too many vanilla beans while trying out different recipes. Vanilla beans are highly versatile and can be used in a number of ways aside from baking. We’ve rounded up some ways that you can use your extra vanilla pods:
There is not much to say about vanilla that has not been said before. It is a delicacy, a spice and an orchid! We hope this article helped you broaden your knowledge of vanilla beans as a flavoring ingredient for your recipes. It is for this reason that we strongly advise you to use the real thing. However, if you’re on a budget or want to taste something similar, then it might be time to try out some vanilla extract!
We have what we hope will be perfect tools for those of you who want to experience the world of vanilla: our selection of pure vanilla pods. With prices starting at £10 per pack, they are extremely affordable considering their luxurious flavour.