Five Fascinating Facts About Vanilla

You know vanilla is oh-so-delicious, and you could probably guess that it’s the world’s most popular flavor and scent. From desserts to perfumes to bug repellents, its uses are far-reaching and not at all…vanilla.

No surprise here: sales of our Frostline® Vanilla Soft Serve Mix far exceed our second most popular flavor – Chocolate – so we feel a particular affinity for this fabulous flavor. Just like the Mesoamericans who originally cultivated vanilla, we searched the land (cough, the internet) to gather and share these lesser-known facts about this popular spice.

1. It’s Ancient

Just like chocolate, vanilla was first discovered in the region that is now Central America. It appears to have been discovered in the 15th century. However, 75% of today’s vanilla comes from Madagascar and the island of Réunion, where a vanilla vine was smuggled in the 1700s. On the island, the plant grew beautiful blossoms but infrequent and unpredictable pods (a.k.a. vanilla beans). The problem was that the region lacked the Melipone bee – found only in Mexico – to pollinate the flower. It took almost 50 years to develop a hand-pollination method for the plant.

 2. It’s Part of History

Thomas Jefferson introduced the U.S. to vanilla after tasting it in France, where he was serving as Ambassador to King Louis XVI. He wrote down the recipe for vanilla ice cream and was known to have served it alongside pastries during his term at the President’s House (now known as the White House). His hand-written note, dating back to the 1780s, is considered to be the first known recipe recorded by an American. It now lives in the Library of Congress.

3. It’s Expensive

After saffron, vanilla is the most expensive spice in the world because it is so time-consuming and labor-intensive to produce. The plant, surprisingly from the orchid family, grows as a vine that can take years to mature. The plant produces a flower that makes the vanilla bean, and it only blooms for 24 hours. It must be pollinated during that time, or it will die. Outside of Central America, the flowers must be pollinated by hand with teeny-tiny tools. And after the beans are harvested, they can take six to nine months to cure. Not to mention, vanilla only grows between 10 to 20 degrees north or south of the Equator. Talk about a stubborn spice.

4. It’s Useful

Beyond its uses as a flavor, vanilla has many other around-the-home applications, like freshening up your fridge (or microwave) and concealing the strong smell of paint. The next time you find yourself painting a bedroom, add a tablespoon of vanilla extract to the can to save your nostrils. In the kitchen, vanilla can be used (with water) to wipe down the fridge and microwave, eliminating any stale/stingy/sour odors that may be lingering. It can also be used to repel spiders and mosquitoes, neither of which can stand the vanilla scent we love! To create a safe DIY mosquito repellent, simply combine equal parts water and vanilla extract, spray it on your skin, and say sayonara to itchy bug bites. To repel spiders, place a bowl of vanilla beans (that have been preserved in vodka or vinegar) on any surface that you’d like to keep a spider-free zone.

5. It’s Popular

Internationally, vanilla continues to rank as the most popular flavor of ice cream. But what’s the scoop on all the different varieties? Generally, anything labeled straight-up vanilla is made with vanilla extract or a substitute.  Vanilla bean ice cream uses unprocessed beans from a vanilla pod, which appear as black specks. French vanilla does not use vanilla from France but a classic French method of making ice cream from an egg-custard base, accounting for its yellowish hue.

“Vanilla” may have become a synonym for boring, but it’s obviously anything but. And while it’s expensive and labor-intensive in its original form, vanilla can be affordable and convenient as a soft serve. Contact us for a starter kit, including Frostline Vanilla Soft Serve Mix, to carry on the tradition of this popular treat.

Ice Cream Sandwiches for Any Operation

According to the Huffington Post, ice cream sandwiches are the new cupcake. Luckily, you don’t have to rethink your operation to get in on the trend before it goes the way of the cronut.

Macro trends like nostalgia  and extreme dining have influenced the resurgence of the ice cream sandwich. Customers love treats that remind them of their childhood, and they’re craving indulgent desserts as a reward for eating healthy the rest of the day. Restaurants around the globe are capitalizing on this trend, with recipes as simple as the original or as exotic as the S’mores Burger, made with Nutella spread, brûlée marshmallow, vanilla ice cream and Maldon sea salt on mini brioche.

It’s easier than you think to offer your own twist on this classic treat, especially if you’re one of these types of operations:

For Bakeries or Coffee Shops:
You’re already known for fresh-baked goodies, so delicious ice cream sandwiches are only one step away. Adding a soft serve machine to your back of house will open up infinite flavor combinations that will take your most popular baked items to the next level.

Try any of our recipes (or invent your own) and sandwich cool, creamy soft serve between cookies, brownies, cake slices and more. Cut a cake donut in half, fill the middle with coffee soft serve and add maple bacon crumbles to the center for a sweet and savory breakfast-turned-dessert combo to die for.

For Frozen Yogurt Shops:
The DIY trend continues to dominate in the foodservice space, especially when it comes to ice cream. As competition continues to grow, you need to continue to find new ways to get customers to choose your shop, rather than the store just down the street.

Signature products and experiences could take your shop over the top. Partner with a local bakery to offer the fresh-baked brownies or other options to serve as the “bread” (see above). Invite your customers to create their own ice cream sandwiches in the wackiest flavor combinations available. You could even hold a contest for the most indulgent treat, complete with mix-ins and toppings.

For Recreation Destinations:
Unique food items are part of an amusement park’s DNA. Classics like caramel apples and cotton candy will always draw a crowd, but nothing drives return business better than a concoction that’s only available at your place.

Using either hard-packed ice cream or soft serve, experiment with customer favorites to create an ice cream sandwich that’s unique to your location. Try funnel cake waffles as the vehicle for Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Soft Serve and watch the customers line up!

See? Ice cream sandwiches are practical for any size or type of operation, and the sky’s the limit when it comes to flavor combinations. Your business just got a whole lot cooler.