Vanilla beans are from the pod of a tropical orchid, Vanilla planifolia. They are the fruit of orchids, which are perennial plants that can grow to be over three feet tall and have large, fragrant flowers. Vanilla is native to Mexico and Central America and has been used in cooking for centuries. The pods contain thousands of tiny beans, which are processed by removing the outer shell and inner bean, drying them out into a powder, then rehydrating them in hot water. The resulting extract is used to flavor many products including ice cream, cakes and cookies. The taste and perfume of Vanilla beans are well renowned for being strong, sweet, and somewhat flowery.
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