Vanilla is surely one of the most popular flavors and scents in the world. You’ve probably made a vegan vanilla cake or ice cream recipe at least once before – or at least tasted them.
Aside from its signature woody taste, most people are familiar with the sweet smell of vanilla. Vanilla candles and perfumes are a mainstay in countless households when you want your home to smell like a bakery without any effort.
Our mission in this post is to dive into the sweet roots of the vanilla bean so you’ll understand where this craze comes from. We’ll be looking at where vanilla beans are grown, in addition to answering questions about vanilla extract.
Where are Vanilla Beans Grown?
Top 5 Countries for Vanilla Bean Production
Vanilla Beans Produced Annually (Tons)
Papua New Guinea
There are a few types of vanilla plant, and all of them need a warm, moist environment to grow. This makes sense, given that vanilla originally came from Mexico, where it was once cultivated by the Aztec people.
Today, all of the world’s vanilla supply comes from countries with the requisite hot and humid climate. Madagascar, Indonesia, and Mexico are the top countries in the world in terms of vanilla production.
You’ve probably heard the phrase “Madagascar vanilla” before. This has led to the misconception that the plant only grows in Madagascar, which simply isn’t true. The expensive spice is grown in many countries all over the world.
If you’re from the United States, you might be curious whether you can enjoy the taste of American vanilla. The US has places that can potentially grow vanilla, such as Florida and Hawaii.
However, vanilla plants are infamously difficult to grow on a commercial scale. Not only do they need specific tropical temperature ranges that aren’t common in the US, but they also require a mindboggling amount of labor to produce.
It can take up to three years after planting vanilla for it to actually bear fruit. Once it does, the blooms on the plant must be pollinated by hand almost immediately, or else they’ll die within hours.
With that in mind, it may be possible for you to grow your own vanilla at home if you have a greenhouse or similarly humid environment to keep it in. Just keep in mind that it will take a lot of work on your part to actually produce vanilla from the plants.
Further Reading: Where are Vanilla Beans in the Grocery Store
Vanilla Beans FAQs
Why are vanilla beans so expensive?
Wondering why the price of vanilla beans is so astronomical? We’ve already touched on that question briefly above, but let’s discuss it in more detail.
Basically, vanilla is expensive because it’s an incredibly finicky plant that needs a lot of care. That labor leads to the cost being raised.
Remember, it can take up to three years for vanilla plants to bloom. Those blooms then need to be monitored closely and pollinated manually within hours, or they’ll die.
After that, the vanilla beans themselves have to remain on the vine for several more months. Even once those several months have passed, though, you’re still not done because the beans must then go through a drying process that takes another several months on top of that.
The final price tag you see in the store is the result of all the handling a single vanilla bean must go through before it can be shipped.
Is it cheaper to make vanilla extract?
Okay, so now you know why vanilla beans themselves are expensive. Is it possible that vanilla extract is cheaper?
Well, sort of. You might save money making your own vanilla extract as opposed to buying it from the store. However, you’ll still need to buy vanilla beans in order to make your own vanilla extract, so there isn’t a way to avoid the hefty price of vanilla beans.
Related Post: What Does Vanilla Extract Taste Like?
Can you get drunk off pure vanilla extract?
Here’s something you might not know: vanilla extract often contains fairly large percentages of alcohol. Specifically, most vanilla extract is around 35% alcohol, so you absolutely can get drunk off it.
When you’re baking with vanilla extract, that alcohol is usually burned away. However, should you drink the extract straight from the bottle, you’ll feel its full effects.
Keep in mind that it is the same type of alcohol you’ll find in other adult beverages. It is possible to get alcohol poisoning from vanilla extract if you drink too much of it.
Vanilla beans are probably one of the most labor-intensive sweeteners you can buy. The next time you see them in the store, don’t feel intimidated by their price tag – they had to go through a lot to get to your store!
Looking for a vegan vanilla recipe to try? Take a look at our brownies and vanilla nice cream recipe that’s perfect for satisfying your sweet tooth.