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Name Variations

  • vanilla bean
  • vanilla pod
  • Vanilla planifolia (scientific name)


Vanilla is a flavoring that comes from vanilla beans, which are the fruit of an orchid plant. Vanilla has a sweet, aromatic flavor and is available in the form of vanilla beans, vanilla powder or vanilla extract


  • Bourbon vanilla or Bourbon-Madagascar vanilla, produced from V. planifolia plants introduced from the Americas, is the term used for vanilla from Indian Ocean islands such as Madagascar, the Comoros, and Réunion, formerly the Île Bourbon.
  • Mexican vanilla, made from the native V. planifolia, is produced in much less quantity and marketed as the vanilla from the land of its origin. Vanilla sold in tourist markets around Mexico is sometimes not actual vanilla extract, but is mixed with an extract of the tonka bean, which contains coumarin. Tonka bean extract smells and tastes like vanilla, but coumarin has been shown to cause liver damage in lab animals and is banned in food in the US by the Food and Drug Administration.
  • Tahitian vanilla is the name for vanilla from French Polynesia, made with the V. tahitiensis strain. Genetic analysis shows that this species is possibly a cultivar from a hybrid-cross of V. planifolia and V. odorata. The species was introduced by French Admiral François Alphonse Hamelin to French Polynesia from the Philippines, where it was introduced from Guatemala by the Manila Galleon trade.
  • West Indian vanilla is made from the V. pompona strain grown in the Caribbean, Central and South America.

The term French vanilla is not a type of vanilla, but is often used to designate preparations that have a strong vanilla aroma, and contain vanilla grains. The name originates from the French style of making ice cream custard base with vanilla pods, cream, and egg yolks. Inclusion of vanilla varietals from any of the former or current French dependencies noted for their exports may in fact be a part of the flavoring, though it may often be coincidental. Alternatively, French vanilla is taken to refer to a vanilla-custard flavor. Syrup labeled as French vanilla may include hazelnut, custard, caramel or butterscotch flavors in addition to vanilla.

Parts of Plant Used

Vanilla extract is a liquid form of flavoring made by soaking dried vanilla beans in water and alcohol based solution and then allowing it to age for several months. Vanilla powder is made by grinding the dried vanilla beans into a fine powder.

Uses and Properties

It can generally be found in cake decorating supply stores, gourmet markets and through specialty mail order services.Vanilla beans are found in well-stocked supermarkets and specialty stores, while vanilla extract is available in most food stores. When selecting vanilla beans, look for moist round, well formed beans that do not appear to have dried or aged excessively. The bean should be pliable and definitely not brittle. ur wiered

See also