Science can be great. Just ask Jesse Pinkman – Yeah science, b!tch! Science has driven us further than we’ve ever been, through innovation in physics, health, robotics, ICT…and, well…. Chemistry. Ah, chemistry. It brought us Breaking Bad but it also brought the possible harbinger of natural vanilla death – synthesised vanillin. Being too popular comes with a price, well, just ask Kim post-Paris jewellery heist. And so it is with vanilla. Only about 1% of vanilla flavouring (vanillin) comes fully from the natural source, the real vanilla orchid. The other 99% is not. So what exactly is in it?
The main ingredients in synthesised vanilla comes from the petrochemical precursor guaiacol. The majority of the remainder is from the spruce tree lignin, but contributing sources also range from eugenol (found in clove oil) to ferulic acid (rice bran) and corn sugar.
Hampshire College Professor of Chemistry Nancy Lowry notes some commercial vanilla also has compounds such as coumarin, a poisonous substance used in blood thinning drugs and also known as the “smell of new-mown hay”. But that’s not even the best part. Mother Nature is infinitely more complex.
Synthetic vanillin only has 1 compound, compared to more than 170 different compounds in the natural stuff. As Professor Lowry states:
“The difference between natural vanillin and synthetic vanillin is that the synthetic form lacks the 169 (and more) other chemicals that round out the deeper flavor of natural vanilla.”
Why mess with nature? If you too are a 1 percenter, here at Madanilla, we only provide real vanilla beans.