Extract of the vanilla bean, fruit of the tropical orchid Vanilla planifolia and related species. It was discovered in Mexico in 1571 and could not be grown elsewhere, because pollination could be effected only by a small Mexican bee, until artificial pollination was introduced in 1820. The main growing regions are now Central America, Indonesia, Madagascar, and Uganda.
The major flavouring principle is vanillin (methyl protocatechuic aldehyde), but other substances present add to the flavour. Ethyl vanillin is a synthetic substance which does not occur in the vanilla bean, patented by German chemist Ferdinand Tiemann, 1875; 3½ times as strong in flavour, and more stable to storage than vanillin, but does not have the true flavour.
Subjects: Medicine and Health — Cookery, Food, and Drink.