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Things to Do to Get the Most out of Your Vanilla Beans

Vanilla is a very popular spice that is often used in baking. Most people purchase vanilla in the form of extract or paste. But what about the beans itself? Vanilla beans have so many health benefits and are much healthier than vanilla extract and paste. Besides, vanilla beans have black seeds that make dishes have a fancy look. If you have always wondered how you can use your vanilla beans, you have come to the right place. In this article, you will learn about how you can get the most out of your vanilla beans, as well as where you can buy them and how much they cost. I hope this article answers all the questions you may have about vanilla beans. 

What Are Vanilla Beans?

If you have ever used vanilla for cooking or baking, then you have used vanilla beans. Vanilla comes from an orchid. The orchid grows beans, which is why they are called "vanilla beans". So, how does the vanilla bean produce the vanilla that you use for baking? First, the pods are picked when they are still not ripe, and then plunged into hot water and laid out to dry for anywhere from two to six months. The vanilla pod contains thousands of tiny black seeds. These seeds will actually add color to whatever you are making. Some people purchase the vanilla beans themselves, while others purchase vanilla extract, which is vanilla beans with added water and alcohol. 

Don't confuse vanilla beans with vanilla extract and vanilla paste. While vanilla extract and paste come from the vanilla bean, there is a difference between them. Vanilla extract is made by macerating vanilla beans in a mixture of alcohol and water. This form of vanilla is much cheaper, which is why most people purchase it. Vanilla beans, which are more expensive, are the best option for baking. They consist of an almost waxy dark brown pod filled with thousands of little brown flavorful specks. These black seeds add a unique look to whatever food you are cooking.

Not sure if you should try vanilla beans or vanilla extract? Vanilla paste is a small jar of the scraped-out vanilla pod. Because it is very similar to vanilla beans but it is cheaper, many people decide to go with this form of vanilla. It still has the black seeds in it and it has a nice fragrance.

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Image Source: Ronald Reginald's

How Much Do Vanilla Beans Cost?

Don't expect vanilla beans to be cheap. Vanilla is the second-most-expensive spice, after saffron. The beans are even more expensive than vanilla extract and paste. It can cost up to $50 for one pound of beans. Buying vanilla beans in bulk is cheaper, but even then it is still expensive. Vanilla is expensive because growing and harvesting it is so labor-intensive. Each flower is usually hand-pollinated and each bean is handpicked. Drying out the vanilla beans can take weeks to do. Even though vanilla beans are so expensive, it is much better to get the actual bean rather than the vanilla extract.

Where Can I Purchase Vanilla Beans?

Now that you know the price of purchasing vanilla beans, you may be wondering where to buy vanilla beans. While it is possible to buy vanilla beans at the grocery store, it can cost up to $9 to buy a single vanilla bean. It is much cheaper to buy vanilla beans online. Online sites to consider purchasing vanilla beans from include eBay, Madagascar Vanilla Beans, The Spice House, and Amazon.

How to Get the Most Out of Your Vanilla Beans

Make Vanilla Paste

If you happen to have vanilla beans, making a vanilla paste is a good option. Many people decide to use the beans that are leftover from vanilla extract to make the paste. However, this decision is completely up to you. What's nice about vanilla paste is that it has those black seeds in it. This can make the food look fancy. Here is how you can make a vanilla paste with your vanilla beans:

Ingredients: 

  • 30 Vanilla Beans
  • 6 tablespoons Vanilla Extract 
  • 1 2/3 cups Agave Nectar (or Vegetable Glycerine for a sugar-free version)

Directions:

  1. Place all the ingredients in a food processor and puree until smooth. If you want to save on time, you can chop the vanilla beans.
  2. Place a fine mesh strainer over a bowl and pour the mixture inside.
  3. Next, press on the vanilla bean "pulp" to get the liquid out. Pour the vanilla paste into a jar and refrigerate it. You can either get rid of the pulp or use it to make your own vanilla extract. 

Make Vanilla Salt

The last thing you may have planned on using your vanilla beans for is to make salt. However, vanilla salt is surprisingly very useful. You can use it on cookies, granola bars, caramel, fudge, and so much more. To make this salt, just let your beans dry out on a paper towel-lined plate for a few days. Slit or chop the beans and add some salt of your choice. Avoid using non-iodized salt, as it could add an off flavor. Instead use sea salt, kosher salt, or gray sea salt.

Grind Your Vanilla Beans

Not exactly sure what you should do with your vanilla beans? Consider grinding them. Grinding your vanilla beans gives you the option to use them for just about anything. All you have to do is use a spice grinder to grind the vanilla beans. You can then sprinkle it onto different recipes.

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Image Source: LAFAZA

Make Vanilla Sugar

Vanilla sugar is so easy to make and can be used in almost any recipes. To make it, dry the vanilla beans for a few days. Mix the vanilla beans with some sugar. You should add one bean for every two cups of sugar. This sugar can be used in so many recipes.

How to Grow Your Own Vanilla Beans

Vanilla beans are very expensive. Because of that, you may want to consider growing your own vanilla beans. Growing vanilla is not as hard as you may think. Of course, drying the beans and getting them ready for being processed can take a while, but overall, growing vanilla beans is easy. Here are the steps for doing it.

Gather Your Supplies 

In order to plant your vanilla beans, you will need the following supplies: a tree or pole support, neutral soil with a pH level of 6.6 to 7.5, well-draining and humus-rich growing medium, a growing area with high humidity, a bright light, and filtered shade. 

Watering Your Plant

Once your vanilla beans are planted, you'll want to keep the top layer of the potting mix damp. Make sure you don't over-water it. There should never be a large puddle around the plant. You'll also need to lightly mist the entire plant daily or every other day.

Pollinating Your Plant

As soon as your plant blooms, it is important that you pollinate it right away. Keep in mind that the plants won’t produce vanilla beans until after three years. During mid-spring to late summer, the matured vine will bear trumpet-shaped white, yellow, or green flowers that are about 5 inches across. When the flowers bloom, they only stay open for one day and must be pollinated immediately by the Mellipona bee or long-beaked hummingbird 12 hours after opening. You can also pollinate it yourself with your fingers.

Harvesting Your Vanilla Beans

After successful pollination, 6- to 10-inch-long vanilla pods will grow nine months later. These are typically harvested when they are 5 to 8 inches long and have a light-yellow color. Once you harvest the beans, the pods should be briefly blanched in boiling water. They can then be dried under the sun for two to three weeks until they turn into thin, shriveled, and dark-brown beans.

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Using Vanilla Beans for Your Skin

Vanilla isn't only good for baking. You can also use it on your skin and hair. In fact, vanilla can do wonders to your skin and hair, even more than some skin care products. Here are some ways you can use vanilla beans on your skin and hair.

Treating Acne

The antibacterial properties of vanilla make it beneficial for the treatment of acne. It helps cleanse your skin, reducing the occurrence of pimples and acne.

Soothing Burns

Vanilla is a great home remedy for burns, wounds, and cuts. However, you should first consult your doctor before you put vanilla on your burns.

Promotes Hair Growth

Vanilla essential oils can help promote hair growth. To begin, detangle your hair with a wide-toothed comb and rinse it thoroughly with warm water. After this, warm 1/4 cup of any carrier oil such as virgin olive, jojoba, almond, or coconut oil on high heat for about 30 seconds. Add 10 drops each of lavender and vanilla essential oils to it and mix thoroughly. Apply this on your hair from the roots to the ends and massage your scalp in circular motions for 2 to 3 minutes. Fasten your hair with a hair clip and wrap a warm towel around your head. Leave it this way for 15 minutes. Then again wrap a warm towel for another 15 minutes. After that, wash it off with a mild shampoo.

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Final Thoughts

I hope this article has answered all your questions about vanilla beans. As you can see, there are so many ways to use vanilla beans. There are also many benefits of using it. In addition to tasting sweet, vanilla can also promote hair growth, treat coughs, help with depression, treat acne, relieve nausea, and heal burns. Although vanilla beans are expensive, they are worth the price. You can also grow your own vanilla beans if you want to. Whatever you choose to do, I'm sure you will find many uses for the vanilla bean.

Mariann Foster

I am one of our content writers for Everything Backyard. I am a mother and business owner of Big Horn Mountain Alpacas in Wyoming. I love farm life, cutting my own firewood in the mountains, and participating in local trail run races.

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