Vanilla is one of those powerful ingredients we use all the time, but probably take for granted. Whether it’s vanilla extract in your chocolate chip cookies or scraped vanilla beans for custard or ice cream, vanilla is called for in all kinds of recipes. With so many uses and so many different types of vanilla — from “Bourbon” to Mexican — vanilla is an omnipresent ingredient whose value cannot be overstated.

The vanilla pod is frequently referred to as the bean. The pods are picked when they are still not ripe, and then plunged into hot water and laid out to dry for anywhere from two to six months.

Like saffron, vanilla is very labour intensive to produce and is the second most-expensive spice, after saffron.

Vanilla flavouring in food may be achieved by adding vanilla extract or by cooking vanilla pods in the liquid preparation.

Although vanilla is a prized flavouring agent on its own, it is also used to enhance the flavor of other substances, to which its own flavour is often complementary, such as chocolate, custard, caramel, coffee, cakes, and others. I use them in a multitude of sweet recipes in this book!

Benefits of Vanilla Extracts

Mayan and Aztec civilizations have known about the properties of vanilla for ages. They would grind fresh pods to create medicinal elixirs and use it as royal drinks.

Health Benefits of Vanilla

Studies on vanillin suggest it contains strong antioxidant and antibacterial properties, and even cancer or tumour fighting abilities. Some other health benefits of vanilla include the following:

  • Increased libido – Since ancient times, vanilla has been regarded an aphrodisiac. However, ongoing aromatherapy studies suggest that vanilla may increase sexual desire by boosting testosterone levels in men.
  • Burns – Traditionally, home remedies to heal burns, cuts, and wounds have used vanilla. However, it is perhaps unsafe to use concentrated vanilla extract or essential oil on recent burns.
  • Coughing – Cough syrups often use vanilla flavouring to mask bitter tastes. Although there is little evidence to prove the effect of vanilla extract on coughing, the mild anaesthetic properties may relieve symptoms such as pain from a sore throat or headache.
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