Pulchritude: Vanilla Orchid

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The Vanilla Orchid is the source of, by far, one of the most popular flavors and fragrances in the world.  Whether used as an extract or directly from the vanilla bean, vanilla is common in most baked goods, desserts, and ice creams, and is also a popular note in many personal care products.  The Vanilla genus is comprised of 110 species and grow as vines in tropical and subtropical regions in the Americas, Africa, and Southeast Asia.  The fruit of the Vanilla Orchid produces the vanilla bean, which is a long thin pod that is harvested from mature pollinated plants.  Vanilla pods must be cured before they become fragrant, which includes stopping the vegetative growth of the pod, sweating, drying, and conditioning.  Vanilla planifolia is the most common species harvested for vanilla, which is native to Central America and the West Indies but is grown predominately in Madagascar and Mexico.  Cultivation of Vanilla Orchid dates back to at least the 14th century.  The Totonac were native to eastern Mexico and are believed to be the first cultivators.


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