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Why Are Vanilla Beans So Expensive?

Marly Schuman

May 21 2012 - 12:33 PM

VanillaI recently purchased vanilla beans for the first time ever. It’s not because I lack any dedication to quality ingredients when I bake. It’s because I’m a cost-conscious consumer. Vanilla beans are really, really expensive. If you’ve even baked something as simple as some chocolate chip cookies from scratch, you’ve probably noticed that pure vanilla extract is even an investment.

This is because vanilla beans are the most labor intensive crop grown in the world. It can take anywhere from just over a year to 3 years to produce the plant. The beans have to stay on the vine for 9 months before they’re harvested – just like a little baby. The beans are then cured and dried, and they have to rest before they are available for purchase. Although not all vanilla beans are labeled “organic”, most of the process itself is organic. After all, this is a job done by human hands, not machines.

One little vanilla bean can go a long way. It can flavor an entire cake. It can add a true depth of flavor to a custard, homemade ice cream or that perfect chocolate chip cookie. After seeing my results, I’m absolutely positive that I couldn’t have achieved the same flavor with a vanilla extract. The pure vanilla flavor really comes through, and even the scent is addictive.

If you are in the (local) market for some vanilla beans, I’d recommend stopping by The Spice House in Old Town. These type of specialty spice stores will give you a much better deal than your average grocery store. While these beans are pricey, you definitely shouldn’t get tricked into paying $12 for one at Treasure Island. Your other best option is looking for a reputable venue online at Amazon or elsewhere.

–Marly Schuman

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