Vanilla Orchids have been transplanted to various regions of the world. However, Mexico is the only place that has an insect that pollinates the vanilla plant. In other places in the world, Vanilla has to be hand pollinated, which adds to its price and mystique.
In 1841, Edmund Albius at age 12, figured out a simple way to hand pollinate vanilla - this technique allowed the production of vanilla to grow exponentially.
Tahitian vanilla beans are more rare than the Madagascar variety and are quite versatile, providing options for baking and making vanilla extract and powders. Vanilla can be used in baking and in desserts, but is equally interesting in savoury cooking.
These beans have a sweet floral aroma, with flavours of fruit for you to enjoy. Are you thinking of a vanilla mayonnaise, or a sauce for lobster? This is the variety preferred by pastry chefs around the world.
Artichokes with Vanilla Mayonnaise
1 cup of mayonnaise ( homemade or store bought)
1/2 a vanilla bean (slice the vanilla bean lengthways - open up the flesh and scrape out the tasty beans - don't throw out the flesh but place it inside a jar of sugar to infuse it.)
Mix together the mayonnaise and the vanilla - let it sit in the fridge.
Cooking the Artichokes
If the artichokes have little thorns on the ends of their leaves, take kitchen scissors and cut off the tips. This step is mostly for aesthetics as the thorns soften with cooking and pose no threat to the person eating the artichoke. But snipping them off will make the artichokes easier to handle.
Slice about 3/4 inch to an inch off the tip of the artichoke. A serrated bread knife works great for this.
Cut off excess stem, leaving up to an inch on the artichoke. The stems can be more bitter than the rest of the artichoke, but some people like to eat them. The inner cores of the stems taste like the heart.
Rinse the artichokes in running cold water. While you rinse them, open up the leaves a little so that the water gets inside more easily.
In a large pot, put a couple inches of water, the garlic, a slice of lemon, and a bay leaf (this adds wonderful flavor to the artichokes). Insert a steaming basket.
Place artichokes on top of the steaming basket. Cover the pot. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer.
Cook for 25 to 35 minutes or longer, until the outer leaves can easily be pulled off.