When you hear the word “vanilla”, you immediately remember a white sweet powder, often used by housewives to prepare tasty and fragrant pastries and other confectionery. But it turns out this is not exactly vanilla, but only an artificial substitute for it - vanillin, which can be found in a wide range on supermarket shelves. And vanilla itself is a spice extracted from the fruits of tropical plants.
Vanilla (from the Latin vanilla, which means "pod") is a tropical vine, the fruits of which are used to obtain a fragrant spice. It is extracted from the unripe fruits of several plant species of the family of the orchid genus vanilla. The best of them is considered flat vanilla, from which you can get the highest quality spice.
This is an evergreen plant with a curly stem. Its leaves are oblong, sharp, fleshy, densely covering the stem. It blooms in spring and sometimes in early summer. The flowers are bright yellow, with a slightly greenish tint, rather large in size. The fruits of the plant are pods, or rather boxes, shaped like pods. It is from such pods that the well-known spice is extracted by everyone.
This vine grows, like all other species of this family, in the tropical and subtropical climate of the entire planet. The West Indies is considered its homeland, and now it can be found in the equatorial moist forests of Florida, South and Central America. It is also artificially grown in Madagascar, which is considered the largest supplier of spices in China and Indonesia.
A bit of history
Once upon a time, this expensive spice was used by Native Americans as money. The first mention of the cultivation of plants is attributed to the Indian tribe Totonakov. They paid with the Aztecs, who captured and enslaved their pods grown on these vines. The Totonaks even had a legend about the origin of this plant. According to her, it grew from the drops of blood of the goddess and mortal, with whom she was in love. The angry father of the goddess found out about their connection and beheaded both in a fit of anger.
The Aztecs, in turn, also appreciated the properties of the plant, and during the reign of the great emperor Montezuma, they collected a tribute of vanilla pods, with the help of which they later prepared fragrant chocolate and a coffee drink, somewhat reminiscent of cocoa. The emperor loved this drink very much. He endowed him with vitality and inexhaustible sexual energy, which allowed him to satisfy his wives. Rumor has it that he had about six hundred of them and they bore him more than fifty children.
Europe learned about this amazing spice only in the 16th century, thanks to the famous Spanish conquistador, conqueror of Mexico - Hernan Cortes. At the meeting, Montezuma treated him to a delicious drink made from cocoa beans and vanilla. He was so pleased with Cortez that he began to export this spice and chocolate from Mexico to Spain. In Europe, they began to actively use it to flavor chocolate and tobacco, and even just chewed pods, believing that it was able to amuse and excite. By the way, many pharmacists tried to add a drop of this spice to perfumes and got a new, refined aroma. And in Russia, at the court of Empress Elizabeth I, they decided to add this spice to baking. In the XVI ‒ XVII centuries, it was valued more than gold.
Until the middle of the 19th century, vanilla was cultivated only in Mexico, since only Melipona bees could pollinate it. But thanks to a twelve-year-old black boy slave who found a way to artificial pollination of the plant, vanilla became available far beyond America. Since it was a very expensive spice and only a few aristocrats could afford this pleasure, at the end of the 19th century in some European countries they began to look for a replacement, due to which a cheap synthetic analogue appeared - vanillin.
Collection and production technology
Vanilla is a very expensive spice, because it is quite difficult to grow it, as it only blooms for one day, and you have to pollinate it artificially. The very laborious technological process of processing spices served the same.
Unripe pods are selected for production and treated with very hot water, immersing the fruit for about 20 seconds. Then it is left for a week at a temperature of 60 degrees Celsius for the fermentation process. Only after this spice acquires its incomparable aroma and dark chocolate color.
Then the pods are dried for several months in a dark, cool room, and preferably in the open air, until they are covered with a characteristic white coating. This symptom indicates that the spice is ready to eat.
The quality of the product obtained largely depends on the conditions in which it is fermented and dried. From the type of creeper with which it was collected, and also from fairly numerous factors. Therefore, all over the world there are as many as eight varieties of vanilla, differing in quality.
Nutritional value and vitamin-mineral composition
Vanilla is a very high-calorie product. Its energy value is almost 290 kcal per 100 grams of product. And the calorie content of vanilla sugar reaches 400 kcal. Its artificial analogue is less caloric - only 89 kcal, but it is still better to eat a natural product.
It is known for certain that the spice contains useful minerals and vitamins of group B. It is rich in potassium and copper, and also contains calcium, magnesium, sodium, phosphorus, iron, manganese and zinc. Of the vitamins, one can isolate such as thiamine, riboflavin, pyridoxine, niacin and pantothenic acid. Vanilla contains polyphenol vanillin, which is able to have a positive effect on the human body.
It contains essential oils, which contain anise alcohol, aldehyde and anisic acid. A substance such as glucovaniline during fermentation breaks down into vanillin and glucose. And also there you can find tannins, resins and cinnamon ether.
The nutritional value is mainly represented by carbohydrates (12.5 g), and there are relatively few other components: per 100 grams of spice, 1.2 grams of protein and 0.1 grams of fat.
Vanilla is rich in valuable vitamins, micro and macro elements that are beneficial for the human body. Largely due to the inclusion of such valuable polyphenol as vanillin.
It can destroy cancer cells, is useful in the fight against sickle cell anemia. Vanilla has long been used in folk medicine, and due to its delicate and sweet aroma, it is highly valued in the perfume industry.
Of course, this spice is widely used for confectionery purposes, and recently, especially with the advent of the fashionable fusion trend, in cooking. Vanilla began to be added to seafood, poultry and various vegetables.
Vanilla is used in folk medicine for various purposes:
- to combat depression and stress;
- to arouse passion;
- to normalize the hormonal background;
- to stabilize the gastrointestinal tract;
- to neutralize the effects of alcohol;
- for the prevention and treatment of diabetes.
With each breath of the wonderful aroma of vanilla, serotonin is produced - the hormone of joy. Thanks to him, irritability decreases, nervous tension is relieved and mood improves.
This spice is the strongest aphrodisiac. Often, to awaken sexual energy, use a bath with vanilla essential oil or use it in aroma lamps.
Vanilla aromatherapy is recommended for women during menstruation to normalize the cycle, as well as during menopause to restore hormonal levels.
There are cases when regular enjoyment of aromatic spice oils caused an aversion to alcohol.
Often, vanilla essential oil is used to prevent colds and flu, and its antibacterial effect is also known. Productive is the use of spices in intestinal diseases, colic. Using it stabilizes the production of gastric juice, increases appetite and promotes the breakdown and removal of carbohydrates from the body.
According to some sources, vanilla aroma contributes to weight loss, relieves cravings for sweets, speeds up metabolism.
Application in cosmetology
Beauticians highly appreciate natural vanilla essential oil. It is simply an indispensable tool for the skin:
- effectively moisturizes;
- perfectly tones;
- significantly rejuvenates;
- significantly nourishes;
- remarkably whitens;
- Effectively removes the feeling of dryness and tightness.
In home cosmetology, a few drops of aromatic oil are often added to finished creams, lotions, or other cosmetics.
Essential oils and spices are often used to create various massage oils and creams, as a means of promoting regeneration and accelerating blood circulation. In the fight against cellulite, vanilla scrub is effective, which is prepared on the basis of coffee and essential oils of almond and vanilla.
In the perfumery industry, vanilla flavor is often used to create various compositions. Perfumes with such a delicate and seductive smell literally drive men crazy.
This exotic spice has a very delicate, sweet aroma. And it tastes bitter. This is a very expensive spice, so natural vanilla is used only to flavor elite sweets. It is sold in the form of pods, alcohol solution and powder.
Due to its sweet smell, it is used mainly for confectionery: all kinds of pastries, cakes, jam, ice cream, chocolate, sweets, sweet creams, puddings and much more.
But there are several products that are worth paying attention to. From the plant make:
- vanilla sugar;
- vanilla powder;
- vanilla extract;
- vanilla essence.
To make it, add a few vanilla pods into powdered sugar or regular crystalline granulated sugar and leave them in a tightly closed container for a week.
After that, remove the pods, and they remain suitable for further use, and store sugar in a cool place.
It turns out when grinding dry vanilla pods. It is appreciated for its ability to maintain a rich aroma during heat treatment.
To obtain it, finely chopped vanilla pods insist on alcohol for about two months. The result is a chocolate-colored liquid with a bright rich aroma.
It is often used for the production of creams, desserts and other prepared dishes.
It is prepared in the same way as the extract. But the essence is much more concentrated, due to the fact that for its production they consume much more vanilla pods for the same volume of alcohol.
Harm and contraindications
Vanilla essential oils are not recommended for use in pregnancy and young children. It can cause an allergic reaction, so you should not use it for people prone to allergies. Excessive use of this spice in combination with aromatherapy can lead to nausea, headache, digestive upset, diarrhea.
Vanilla essential oil can increase sensitivity to sunlight, so it is not advisable to take sun baths or bask on the beach immediately after using the product.
Natural vanilla is an elite and expensive spice extracted from the fruits of tropical plants. The process of growing and producing it is rather laborious, therefore the price for it is too high. But there is an artificially created synthetic analogue of this product - vanillin.
It is much cheaper and therefore almost replaced the natural product from store windows. Vanilla has in its composition essential oils, which are popular among perfumers, cosmetologists and pharmacists. Everywhere they use their useful properties in traditional medicine. This spice is irreplaceable in the culinary industry.
It is used to flavor a variety of confectionery, drinks, ice cream and various sweets. She is a powerful aphrodisiac, able to arouse erotic attraction and sexual attractiveness. Perfumes with notes of vanilla arouse desire, seduce and make women attractive to males. This spice is almost harmless, but its excessive use can cause a condition close to poisoning. Essential oils are contraindicated in pregnancy and in childhood.