Vanilla spp

Vanilla is a bean pod grown from an orchid. It originated in Mexico but is now grown all over the tropical world. Vanilla is associated with the element air and the planet Venus. It is a warm, comforting herb and the scent can even be intoxicating in high concentrations. Vanilla is useful in any magic related to love and beauty as well as any effort to bring comforting energy into a space. It's also useful for sweetening sour dispositions and soothing ire as well as increasing trust and bringing clarity to a situation.

In common language the term vanilla refers to boring and blande, but it also refers to those ways of doing things that are tried and true and with which we are most comfortable. The fragrance and flavor of vanilla stirs up images of grandma's kitchen, safe, comforting, soothing. There are no surprises here. No Chunky Monkey. Just trust and familiar goodness.

Vanilla smoothes and brightens the flavor of anything you add to it. It makes chocolate creamier, it makes chili peppers brighter and makes their heat less painful.

Vanillin is the compound in vanilla that gives it its characteristic fragrance and flavor. It can be isolated from the bean and used as flavoring and it can also be synthesized in a laboratory. Synthetic vanillin is considerably less costly than natural vanillin and much more common in use, so if you just see "vanillin" on an ingredient list, it's probably sythentic. Vanillin can cause allergic reactions in some and is a trigger for some migraine sufferers, but the synthetic version does not appear to be more problematic than natural vanillin.

Pure vanilla extract is an alcohol extract of the vanilla pod. (This is quite easy to do at home, btw. Just use vodka and a chopped up vanilla bean.) It is brown in color, as the pod is brown in color. Clear vanilla or white vanilla extract is made of vanillin, the isolated (usually synthetic) flavor compound. The advantage of clear vanilla extract is that you can put it in your white (or whatever other color) frosting, marshmallows and meringues and it doesn't change the color. You can also get artificial vanilla extract with isolated vanillin that is also artificially colored brown, but why? Natural clear vanilla is also available, but costs more, of course.

I, personally, prefer the whole taste of vanilla with all the additional compounds nature gave it. I am told by others that there is no difference, but I can taste it. I have read that isolated vanillin is more stable and stronger in flavor, so I feel totally vindicated.

Coumarin is another compound that has been used to impart a vanilla-like fragrance. The flavor is not as pleasant as the smell and there are many physical actions of this compound- it suppresses the appetite, is mildly toxic and has been classified as a carcinogen. Despite this, it still shows up sometimes as an artificial vanilla flavoring agent. It does occur naturally in many edible plants (strawberries, cherries) and in plants we use for flavoring (Sweet woodruff, cassia) and medicine (mullein) but there is a difference between consuming an isolated compound and getting trace amounts in conjunction with other compounds.

Element(s): Air -
Planet(s): Venus -
Zodiac Sign: - -
Season: -
Sabbat: -

Gender: Feminine

comfort, love, beauty, mood, soothing, calming, clarity, trust, sweeten disposition

Recipes that contain Vanilla

Notes from the Test Kitchen

Tell us about your experiments and experiences with this magical food.

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