Vanilla is one of the most evocative flavours in the world. Who doesn’t love a spoonful of Sara Lee vanilla ice-cream straight from the tub? Or that delicious waft of sweet scent when you measure out a teaspoon of vanilla essence into your baking? We certainly do!
And yet, the word ‘vanilla’ is much maligned. Somehow, somewhere, someone started using the word to describe things that were ordinary. Boring. Plain jane.
That’s not fair. Vanilla is a far cry from being boring. So we’ve decided to do some sniffing around and share the truth about this fascinating scent.
Vanilla – which in Spanish translates as ‘little pod’ – has a rich and complex history. It was first discovered by a tribe called the Totonacs on Mexico’s east coast way back before the 15th century. The Aztecs conquered the Totonacs, and took the vanilla with them. Then the Spanish did the same.
Back then, vanilla was scraped into hot chocolates for added flavour (it was another couple of centuries before ice-cream was invented). Today, vanilla is not only a pantry staple that’s added to most baked treats – it is cherished for its aromatherapy benefits, too.
Before we dive into why it’s so good for you, let’s take a look at its remarkable creation.
Vanilla pods grow on a beautiful orchid vine native to Central and South America. Their very existence is remarkable – the orchid flowers open for just 24 hours and, if they are not pollinated during this brief period, they wilt and fall from the vine.
Pollination is an extremely delicate process that is done by hand (unless the orchid grows in Mexico, where native Melipona bees do the job). No wonder vanilla is the second most expensive spice in the world after saffron!
Vanilla is celebrated in the aromatherapy world. And for good reason. We love vanilla essential oil for its soothing and relaxing properties. As well as chilling you out, it is an antioxidant, aphrodisiac, anticarcinogenic, febrifuge and antidepressant. So many good reasons to add a few drops to your daily blend!
Speaking of, vanilla blends beautifully with the essential oils of orange, lemon, neroli, jojoba, chamomile, lavender and sandalwood. Mmmm …
Nope, vanilla is certainly no plain jane. And that’s why we love it.