Many people are not aware of the history of Bourbon Madagascar Vanilla Beans and why would you be, many of you will be asking yourselves. You will see products containing vanilla throughout your shopping sprees and products likes authentic vanilla extract appear in grocery stores all around the US, so you can see that it is a common product, although sometimes, depending on what form you buy vanilla in, it does come at a cost. However, what a lot of you do not realize is that the pure vanilla extract you might pick up in store or order online has a vast history and so to truly appreciate the beautiful flavor of vanilla, you must be educated in its past before recognizing its value in a pudding or cake that you might go on to produce.
The most traditional and well known favorite of real vanilla is the already mentioned Bourbon Madagascar Vanilla Beans. These beans are produced from the Vanilla Planifolia plants and are so named because they came from plants growing on the Indian Ocean islands of the Comoros, and Réunion, which were formerly known as the Île Bourbon. Vanilla production then moved across to the island of Madagascar in the 19th century and these days the island actually produces approximately 1,000 metric tons of beans per year, which is fortunate because demand for whole vanilla beans can often be extremely high. Although there are many different types of bean, Bourbon Madagascar Vanilla Beans are considered to be one of the best quality brands of vanilla throughout the world and this is as a result of the profoundly rich vanilla flavor, which is produced because of the high vanillan ratio.
However, even before vanilla became so wildly popular amongst people of the modern world, whole vanilla beans were widely known and used in food and drink, for instance it is believed that the first people to have discovered the wonderful product were the Totonaca, who were a tribe native to Mexico. When the Aztecs then conquered the Totonaca tribe, they came to the view that vanilla was a food of the gods and referred to the beans as “tlilxochitl” which translate as “Black Flower”, for the Vanilla Planifolia plants are black in color.
Whole vanilla beans were then transported across to Spain in the 16th century after an explorer named Hernando Cortez, after stopping in Mexico, was served a drink by the native tribe, a drink which had been flavored with vanilla, and he fell for the rich aroma and taste of vanilla. After a short time, realizing the great taste of the beans, Spanish chefs were soon using their own version of pure vanilla extract to make vanilla infused chocolate for the elite of Spain.
Mexico remained the sole producer of vanilla until late in the 19th century when the French decided to take some cuttings of the orchid to the King's garden, which happened to be on Ile de La Réunion. The French King’s surname was Bourbon and so you can see how this vanilla bean species came to be named Bourbon Madagascar Vanilla Beans. Due to the islands not having the same species of bee as Mexico, however, they had trouble with the production of whole vanilla beans and as a result took a number of attempts from various botanists to succeed in artificially pollinating the flower, until a young slave actually discovered how to perfect the manual pollination. Successful production of the plants then swiftly moved across to the island of Madagascar and soon other European colonies and more people were able to share in the wonder of the now named Bourbon Madagascar Vanilla Beans.
These days, after the spice Saffron, Vanilla happens to be the second most expensive spice. This is because the growing of Bourbon Madagascar Vanilla Beans, as well as other varieties, is very intensive labor. Despite being pricey, people are willing to pay for vanilla in a variety of forms other than just in its whole form, such as vanilla powder or pure vanilla extract because the flavor is so delicate and because it can be used so widely, not only in both commercial and home bakery but in perfumery and aromatherapy as well.
Article By: Sarah Neil