Vanilla is the fruit of a plant native to Mexico belonging to the Orchidaceae family. It has the shape of an elongated and flattened stick, 8-12 inches long and about 1 inch thick, light brown in color. When ripe it opens like a legume: inside appear small seeds sunk in the pulp.
The vanilla stick is marketed after being fermented and dried and looks like a woody stick, with a wrinkled and brownish surface. And it is precisely at this stage that it acquires its intense aroma that it transmits to the foods to which it is added.
To enhance its scent, you need to open the stick lengthwise, so that the strongly aromatic substance inside it comes out. However, vanilla can also be found in powder or liquid form, in the form of essence. Today it is often replaced by the very fragrant synthetic vanilla powder, although not as intensely as vanilla. Vanilla and vanilla powder are widely used in pastry to perfume creams, cakes, puddings and ice cream.