Vanilla is a climbing orchid cultivated for its pleasant flavour. It is one of the few contributions of the western hemisphere to the world of spices. Over 50 species described, only three are important species as sources of natural vanillin, which are Vanilla planifollia Andrews, Vanilla pompona Shiede and Vanilla tahitensis J.W. Moore. Of these, Vanilla planifollia is the most preferred and commercially cultivated.
Pods (beans) are subjected to curing process to produce the characteristic aroma. The substance chiefly responsible for the unique fragrance and flavour of the vanilla bean is vanillin(C8 H8 03).
Among the food flavors, vanilla has a prime position. Vanilla essence is largely used in foods in the preparation of ice creams, chocolates, bakery products, puddings, pharmaceuticals, liquors and perfumes. Vanilla is the second most expensive spice traded in the world market.
The vanilla flavour industry was based on the processed beans of the vanilla plants. With the advent of chemical
technology to produce vanillin/ ethyl vanillin, these synthetic substitutes have taken over the use of vanilla beans. However, natural vanillin is still the most preferred food flavor.