Genus Vanilla, member of a group of tropical climbing orchids, from the pods of which a widely used flavouring agent is extracted. Vanilla had been used to flavour xocoatl, the chocolate beverage of the Aztecs, centuries before the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortésdrank it at Montezuma's court, and soon afterward vanilla became popular in Europe. Today it is used in a variety of sweet foods and beverages, particularly chocolate, confections, ice cream, and bakery goods, and in perfumery.

The vanilla beans of commerce are the cured, unripe fruit of Vanilla planifolia, Mexican or Bourbon vanilla, which is a native to Mexico, Gauttimala, Honduras. Now in india its cultivation made a revolutionary change especially in kerala like the places ofWyanadu, Kozhikode, Ernakulam,Idukki and Kottayam .“Vanilla fragrans” is the most common plant every one use.

Most suitable area for cultivation is up to 1000 m from sea level. The temperature is 16 – 38 degree c suitable but the most suitable temperature is 25 – 32 degree c. Too much rain is not good for its health normally. If we use 1 meter length stem for propagation, it will start flowering from 2nd year, but we get the full strength of yielding only after 6th years after the cultivation and it will continue upto 20 years. For Vanilla, the plant has a long, fleshy climbing stem that attaches itself by aerial root lets to trees; roots also penetrate the soil. Numerous flowers open at a time and lasts but a day during the blooming season, which lasts about two months. Because of their dainty structure, the blossoms can be naturally pollinated only by a small bee of Mexico; in other countries the flowers are pollinated artificially with a wooden needle as soon as they open. The fruit, a bean pod, reaches its full length of about 8 inches (20 cm) in four to six weeks but may take up to nine months to mature. As soon as they turn golden green at the base, the unripe beans are harvested. Normally we get 250 to 350 kg seeds from one hectare land. In one hectare land we can plant 1500 to 2000 plants .

Fresh vanilla beans have no aroma. The characteristic aroma results from enzymatic action during curing. The traditional method begins with subjecting the harvested beans to a process of nightly sweating and daily exposure to the sun for about 10 days, until they become deep chocolate brown in colour. Then the beans are spread on trays in an airy shelter until dry enough for grading and packing. Curing and drying requires from four to five months. The best grade of cured bean pods may be covered with tiny crystals of vanillin, which provide the characteristic aroma, sweet, rich, and delicate. This coating, known as givre, may be used as a criterion of quality. Vanillin is not naturally present in the fleshy exterior of the pod but is secreted by hair like papillae in its lining and ultimately becomes diffused through the viscid, oily liquid surrounding the seeds. The cured pods contain about 2 percent vanillin; other organic constituents include vanillic acid (odourless), oleoresin, sugar, gum, calcium oxalate, alcohols, aldehydes, and esters contributing to the full fragrance and flavour. Tahiti beans are reddish brown in colour, of less full flavour than the Mexican or Bourbon product, and contain a small amount of heliotropin, or piperonal, which characterizes their flavour.

Vanilla extract is prepared by crushing the cured, dried vanilla beans and extracting with alcohol. Vanilla flavour is made from oleoresin vanilla, a dark, semisolid concentration of vanilla extract, and alcohol and water. Imitation vanilla is made from commercially synthesized vanillin.

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