If you have ever had the chance to eat a dish that is made with real vanilla beans rather than an extract, then you know that the flavor is rich and delicious. However, did you know that vanilla bean isnt just a flavor to enjoy in desserts? It is also a very healthy ingredient that has a multitude of benefits.
Vanilla beans are long and thin and originate in places such as Madagascar, India, Puerto Rico, and Indonesia. When the pods are opened, they are waxy, dark, and filled with little brown specks.
The beans have no smell or flavor when they are planted, but once they are picked and fermented, they emit the smell that we are all used to. Vanilla beans can be sold just as they are or can be made into a powder or a paste. Bean paste is made by scraping out the pod and infusing the insides into a sweet, thick syrup that is made with sugar, water, and a thickening agent. Vanilla bean powder is made without any added sugar or alcohol and just comes from dried and powdered vanilla beans.
Most people only associate vanilla beans with their pleasing smell and taste, but vanilla beans also have health benefits. Vanillin, which is the chief component in vanilla, has been linked to several health benefits, including lowering cholesterol and alleviating arthritis and inflammation.
Vanilla beans also contain antioxidants that help prevent the breakdown of cells and tissues, stimulate the regrowth of cells, and fight free radicals due to its content of potassium. The antioxidants also boost the immune system, decrease stress, and reduce recovery time from injuries. Vanilla beans also have traces of calcium, zinc, manganese, magnesium, and iron.
Vanilla beans also have vitamins from the B complex, including thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid, which help enzyme synthesis, boost the function of the nervous system, and regulate the metabolism. Vanilla beans can also help decrease your appetite and increase metabolic efficiency.
But, here is the deal with the nutrition in vanilla beans: you should use the whole bean and scrape the powder out or buy vanilla bean powder (which is just pre-scraped beans). While vanilla extract will still help boost your mood due to its natural mood-enhancing scent, however, it is not a good nutritional source because it is diluted and processed.
If you want to save money, vanilla beans can be inexpensive if you buy them whole. Buying the pre-scraped powder is easier and more convenient, but is also more expensive.
If you want to try to grow vanilla beans at home, you will need a pole support (or a tree), neutral soil, a well-draining area of land with high humidity, and bright light with filtered shade.
Once your vanilla is planted, make sure that the soil is moist evenly throughout the area, but make sure that you do not overwater the plant. You can lightly fertilize the plant in the warmer months. Keep in mind that your plants will not produce vanilla beans for at least three years, and in the meantime, the plant will display trumpet-shaped flowers.
Once these flowers bloom, they stay open for only one day and have to be pollinated immediately. Once they are pollinated, the vanilla pods will grow about 9 months later. The vanilla beans can be harvested when they are at least 5 inches long and are light-yellow in color. The pods should be briefly blanched in boiling water before being sweated and dried until they are shriveled under the sun.
Cheap vanillas are for sale at grocery stores, but it is best to buy and use the real thing or make your own. Many vanilla extracts have added ingredients that are unhealthy and will not give your food the full flavor that you are looking for.
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