You may not think of vanilla as being anything special. It is, after all, the default ice cream flavor on most menus, and it has all these connotations of being boring—plain vanilla. The truth is that vanilla, part of the orchid family, is the second most expensive spice after saffron. It is very labor-intensive to harvest. And it is everywhere: in sweets, in fragrances, in aromatherapy products. Now we are getting reports that there is a shortage. Time to embrace chocolate? Not so fast.
The dearth of Madagascan vanilla, which is considered the best kind for its creamy sweetness (Mexico and Tahiti have vanillas too), reflects climate conditions from 2015. Last year was an especially poor harvest, so this year prices are surging by 150 percent. And high prices create a snowball effect: Farmers pick their vanilla early to capitalize on the surge in pricing (and to protect themselves from being robbed). And they end of picking too soon and drying it too quickly, leading to subpar vanilla.
- World Food Prices Hit 7-Year Low, But You Won't Save a Dime
- Olive Oil Prices Are About to Spike 20 Percent, Warn Experts
- The 4 Kinds of Vanilla Beans to Know