By Stephanie Rayburn, Sales Trainee for High Quality Organics
Plain ‘ol Vanilla? Actually, Vanilla is quite an exciting flavor: exotic, well-traveled, a little mysterious- and has a great story to tell.
You may know that the lovely vanilla bean, pieces of which you see speckled throughout your scoop of ice cream, actually comes from an orchid. The potent oils of the dried black pod and bean are known to calm, soothe and make delicious and versatile deserts.
It is thought that the Totonaco Indians of Mexico were the first to cultivate the pale white orchid flower. As the Aztecs and then the Spaniards came to rule the region, the secrets of the vanilla bean were carried outside the tropics and into the greenhouses of European royalty.
Although the vanilla bean quickly became a trendy drink for the rich (a pre-cursor to the vanilla latte, perhaps?), it remained rare and difficult to procure. The key to the successful propagation of the orchid is the special symbiotic relationship with the Melipona bee. In keeping with the sweet and pure reputation of Vanilla, the stingless, dainty bee mysteriously buzzes in to pollinate the orchid on the one morning a year that the flower blooms. The bloom, if not pollinated, wilts and drops after just a single day and the opportunity for vanilla bean production is lost for a full year.
It was not until the mid-1800’s, when a 12-year-old boy from the French colonial island of Reunion discovered the method of hand pollinating the Vanilla orchid, that the bean became widely cultivated.
The uses of this fragrance and flavor go beyond just pleasing the pallet and the nose; vanilla has long been utilized as a soothing and sensual tonic with many health benefits. Keep calm my friends, and reach for the Vanilla!
Stephanie (often referred to as Steph) is from many beautiful places, including East Texas (she still lets the occasional “ya’ll” slip), Oregon, Arizona and West Africa, where she served in the Peace Corp. She is most in her element when traveling and exploring, and is loving her current adventures in ‘The Biggest Little City’ she’s ever lived.
Steph is passionate about organics and the sustainable agriculture practices that the industry encourages, but her favorite part of being on the High Quality Organics team is the wide range of fun characters she gets to work with! Steph has a twin sister (fraternal) and an older brother who live in the area; her mom is a self-taught herbalist, and HQO’s biggest Facebook fan. On weekends you can find her hiking in the pines of Lake Tahoe and enjoying the music and craft beers of Reno.