A vanilla bean is a pod containing the seeds of a tropical orchid vine that is indigenous to Madagascar. The pods are harvested by hand, then split open to reveal their brown pods and seeds. These beans can then be used as an essential oil in baked goods, bath products, and other treats. Vanilla beans produce their vanilla flavor when they are dried and cured. Madagascar vanilla beans are sold whole (whole beans), split (half beans), or powdered (pods). The pods are removed from the beans by splitting them lengthwise with a knife or cleaver; they are then scraped out of the inside of each bean using special tools.
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