A Vanilla is widely used as flavoring for beverages, ice cream, and chocolates, as well as in baking and in making perfumes. This flavoring is extracted from the vanilla orchid.
The vanilla orchid is a vine, climbing over trees or poles, reaching as high as its pillar would allow. Its rootlets attach the vanilla to its pillar or to the soil. The vanilla blooms for about two months, its flowers lasting at most a day.
Its flowers are hermaphrodites, they contain both male and female organs. Natural pollination can only be carried out by a small bee found in Mexico. Vanilla growers use artificial pollination, in which they press the anther to the stigma so that the flower will self-pollinate and bear fruit. Its flowers are short-lived and must be checked by growers for new blooms each day.
The vanilla essence is extracted from its fruit. The fruit itself is odorless, but during curing, the compound vanillin is secreted within the beans. This compound gives vanilla its odor and flavor. The vanilla essence may also come from synthetic vanillin.
The use of vanilla as flavoring is not a modern discovery. It started from the Aztecs in heir chocolate beverage, then the Spanish brought it to Europe.