Want to buy your valentine an orchid? Try vanilla! Don’t get me wrong; I’m not suggesting you buy a vanilla plant. As you can see from the healthy specimens at Vallarta Botanical Gardens, these heavy vines are best left to climb up tropical trees or hang in greenhouses.
However, it is easy to buy a gift made with vanilla. As the world’s most delicious orchid, vanilla finds its way into many valentine’s essentials. Cakes, candies, cookies, perfumes, and scented lotions often contain it. Thousands of years ago, the native peoples of Mexico first used it as a flavoring for cooking, especially with chocolate. They created the process to dry and cure the seedpods, and bring out the vanilla beans’ distinct flavor.
Vanilla planifolia is the most common source for the natural flavoring. Shown in the next photo, it has the long, skinny seedpods familiar to cooks. Vanilla pompona is a less common source, native to Central America from Mexico to Panama. Its seedpods in the last 2 photos look like small bananas. Even if you don’t consider yourself much of a cook, it’s easy to use the beans to make vanilla sugar, vanilla brown sugar syrup, or your own vanilla vodka.
Vanilla’s tastiness and versatility keep it in the top ranks of valentine gifts. Of course, regular-size orchids with flowers also make excellent presents. Start by checking out these buying tips to find the right Phal, Paph, or Cattleya. You can always have vanilla with your valentine dessert.
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