Although Madagascar is one of the worlds largest producers of vanilla and makes some of the best pods it actually originates from Mexico. In 1819 French entrepreneurs took vanilla fruits to Madagascar once they had learned how to hand harvest it. Vanilla is the second-most expensive spice after saffron because growing the vanilla seedpods is so labour-intensive. Despite the expense, Madagascan vanilla is the most sought after vanilla pods in the world with a soaring popularity rate which turned a $20 per kilo product in the 1930’s to a $500 per kilo product today, truly earning its nickname ‘black gold’.
Fun fact: Vanilla has many of the same tasting profiles as breast milk, which could be the cause of its popularity. It’s a flavour we may not instantly recognise but are subconsciously drawn towards.