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Vanilla is a spice derived from orchids of the genus Vanilla, primarily obtained from pods of the Mexican species, flat-leaved vanilla (V. planifolia). Vanill  grows in the form of a dark brown bean pod that is long and skinny.Pollination is required to make the plants produce the fruit from which the vanilla spice is obtained.Three major species of vanilla currently are grown globally, all of which derive from a species originally found in Mesoamerica, including parts of modern-day Mexico. They are V. planifolia (syn. V. fragrans), grown on Madagascar, Réunion, and other tropical areas along the Indian Ocean; V. tahitensis, grown in the South Pacific; and V. pompona, found in the West Indies, Central America, and South America. The majority of the world’s vanilla is the V. planifolia species, more commonly known as Bourbon vanilla or Madagascar vanilla, which is produced in Madagascar and neighboring islands in the southwestern Indian Ocean, and in Indonesia. Madagascar’s and Indonesia’s cultivations produce two-thirds of the world’s supply of vanilla. Vanilla is the second-most expensive spice after saffron because growing the vanilla seed pods is labor-intensive.  Nevertheless, vanilla is widely used in both commercial and domestic baking, perfume production, and aromatherapy.

Genus name


Mexican name


Chinese name


Plant type


Harvested parts

Flowers, Seeds, Leaves, Stem

Main producer

Madagascar, Indonesia

Main use

Flavoring, Cosmetic, Perfume, Repellent


Vanilla bean = Sweet/Vanilla extract = Bitter

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