Thursday, December 06, 2012

Eco Living: Vanilla :)

I haven’t posted here in a long time (I’ve been focusing on taking care of my health and my dad too).  But I am going to start posting again more since I have a backlog of posts I need to write (I need to post all my previous eco living related articles, as well as new posts exclusive to here). So here is the first of the posts. Last month's eco living article was on vanilla! I included lots of recipes on vanilla extract (alcohol and glycerin based), and vanilla infused oil.  Both can be used in baking or for skin care (if using for consumption, make sure you are using food grade ingredients).

It is usually best to buy vanilla beans online, since it is much less expensive and the quality is superb.   You can get 1/2 to 1 pound for much cheaper than buying in a super market, and if you buy from a vanilla vendor, most likely the beans will be fresher since they have a higher turnover rate so the beans won’t be sitting around for several months on a store’s shelf.  There are a couple different grades of beans: I always try to buy organic beans and to get the highest grade possible since higher quality beans have the best flavor.

There are also a few different species of beans, which vary in flavor.  Most people are familiar with Vanilla planifolia, which yields a rich vanilla flavor.  Vanilla tahitensis is vanilla, floral, and fruity.  Both make delicious vanilla products!

For best storage, I wrap a few beans in parchment paper or plastic wrap.  Then I package it in zip lock bags, and I make sure to push most of the air out (I try to use biodegradable zip lock bags which decompose in landfills in a few years, you can find them at whole foods or other health food stores).  Then I put that in either another zip lock bag or a glass container.   I learned the parchment paper/plastic wrap tip from a coop I was in a few years ago: but I use the zip lock bags or glass containers to really keep the air out.  This helps keep the beans moist and plump: my beans have stayed fresh for a long time using this method.

Quick tip if you have really dry beans and don’t want to make extract or an oil: you can grind them up and make vanilla powder.  

There is also a vanilla paste: one of these days I am going to try to make my own!

For more information on vanilla in skin care products check out my vanilla post on Earth Alkemie’s (my skin care business) blog.

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