Vanilla Beans, Whole Grade A
4 oz bag $59.06
8 oz bag $118.12
1 lb bag $236.25
The Incomparable Vanilla Bean
Vanilla is derived from a species of orchid first harvested in Mexico by pre-Columbian cultures centuries ago. It was discovered by conquistador Hernán Cortés in the 1520s, who also introduced chocolate to Europe. The French loved the flavor so much they bought some plants form the Spanish and transplanted them to their colonies in Madagascar & Polynesia. Most vanilla is now one of two species: planifolia (from the Indian Ocean rim, especially Madagascar & Indonesia) or tahitensis (from the South Pacific islands). Our beans are blend of the two, but the majority is planifolia.
Since the vanilla fruit developed only when pollinated by a local bee (Melipona), successful cultivation elsewhere was not feasible until Belgian botanist Charles François Antoine Morren discovered this, and figured out how to artificially pollinate the vanilla plant. Today, most vanilla is hand-pollinated.
Vanilla is among the most expensive crops on the market, due to the labor-intensiveness of harvesting and processing it, as well as the vulnerability of the crop to storm damage. 95% of products supposedly containing vanilla really contain synthetic vanillin, a derivative of lignin, a wood polymer. The common association of the word “vanilla” with “boring or conventional,” is perhaps due to the use of imitation or used bean vanilla, which doesn’t do the complex taste of the true bean justice.
Bean count per pound obviously varies greatly depending on the plumpness and length of the individual beans. That’s why we sell them by weight instead of count. However, we receive many requests for a rough estimate of how many beans are in a pound, so we’d say about 100 beans is a fair estimate.
Seckel Pear and Vanilla Crisp
For the topping
- 1/2 cup oats
- 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
- 1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup flour
- 7 teaspoons butter, cut into bits
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- pinch of cloves
For the fruit
- 3 cups sliced seckel pears
- 3 inch segment of vanilla bean
- zest and juice of 1 lime
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- pinch of cloves
- pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a small, roughly 8 x 10″ baking dish.
Combine the oats, sunflower seeds, coconut, sugar, flour, salt and cloves in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until ingredients are crumbly. Cut in the butter with a few short pulses.
In a small bowl toss the pears with the zest and juice, flour, sugar, cloves and salt. Then arrange fruit in a small in the buttered baking dish. Smooth the topping over the fruit evenly.
Bake for 45 minutes, or until it is quite bubbly and golden brown on top. Cool for 45 minutes and serve as is, or with a dollop of whipped cream.
Recipe courtesy of Elizabeth Stark