Where does Vanilla flavouring come from ?
We have vanilla in our cupcakes, birthday cakes, and ice cream cones. It is a personalized dessert, the taste of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies after dinner, licking frosting directly from the spatula. A small bottle of vanilla extract is a staple food in warehouses across the United States, and there is not a single home baker in the country who wonders where it came from when poured into a teaspoon of batter. They certainly don’t think about the beaver glands. These small, hairy, wild, dam-dwelling creatures once played an important role in the production of artificial vanilla extract.
What have beavers got to do with vanilla extract?
Beavers have a sweet smell. The castor gland near the anus produces a thin brown substance called castorium. In the wild, beavers use castorium to mark their territory. Goo has a musky aroma similar to natural vanilla, thanks to the food in the bark.
The properties of castor oil have made it a popular additive in spices, enhancing the flavors of vanilla, strawberry, and raspberry in foods such as ice cream and yogurt. However, do not rush into your kitchen and clean all the vanilla extracts from your cabinets or throw your vanilla ice cream out of the freezer. Castorium is rarely used to taste the food, and the FDA has ruled that there is no health risk.
The biggest challenge in cultivating castorium for food use is that it is difficult to harvest as you might imagine. According to National Geographic, the process is complex and aggressive. The beaver must first be given anesthesia and the castor gland “milk” to produce secretions. The whole experience seems unattractive (would you like to use it after witnessing where the castorium came from in your diet?) Is uncomfortable, especially for the beaver.
Since at least 2013, only 300 300 worth of castor oil has been produced annually. Back in 2011, a non-profit vegetarian organization asked five companies producing natural and artificial vanilla if they were using castorium in their products. “All five unanimously stated that castorium is not used today in any type of vanilla that is sold for human consumption, and that its most common use is in flavor.
Brian Kwokley, a food scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, tells me, “This is really stylish. “Cost is prohibited.”
Today, there is no reason to believe that the artificial vanilla extract you buy from the supermarket contains castorium. While you & # 39; re never going to throw an old-fashioned vanilla extract or a jar of frozen vanilla ice cream in the back of your cabinets, this tells you that there is no guarantee that the component label will contain castorium. . The secretion is an animal product so it can be labeled as “natural fragrance”.
How to make artificial vanilla
Modification of petrochemicals is more likely to create artificial vanilla. Typically, vanillin mandolic acid combines with two chemicals to produce synthetic vanillin, which, when reacted with oxygen, is the main constituent of imitation vanilla. Eighty-five percent of the world’s synthetic vanillin, or 18,000 metric tons, is produced this way each year, he writes.
Any vanilla extract made from a petrochemical process should be called imitation or synthetic vanilla extract, and you can easily find bottles of a vanilla extract made from this process at the grocery store.
“Like yeast, you can make vanilla from the fungus,” says Le. You can genetically modify yeast to make sugar basically vanilla flavor. Because it comes from an organism, according to federal rules, you can call it natural flavor. ”
A vanilla extract made with yeast or mushrooms will not appear in the baking hallway. Instead, it is used to enjoy foods such as ice cream.
However, the real natural vanilla extract comes directly from the vanilla bean.