vanilla

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va·nil·la / vəˈnilə/ • n. 1. a substance obtained from vanilla beans or produced artificially and used to flavor sweet foods or to impart a fragrant scent to cosmetic preparations: [as adj.] vanilla ice cream. ∎  ice cream flavored with vanilla: a scoop of vanilla. 2. a tropical climbing orchid (genus Vanilla) that has fragrant flowers and long podlike fruit. Its many species include V. planifolia, the chief commercial source of vanilla beans. ∎  (also vanilla bean or vanilla pod) the fruit of this plant, which is cured and then either used in cooking or processed to extract an essence that is used for flavor and fragrance. • adj. having no special or extra features; ordinary: vanilla sex.

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vanilla Extract of the vanilla bean, fruit of the tropical orchid Aracus (or Vanilla) aromaticus and related species. It was discovered in Mexico in 1571 and could not be grown elsewhere, because pollination could be effected only by a small Mexican bee, until artificial pollination was introduced in 1820. The main growing regions are now Madagascar and Tahiti.

The major flavouring principle is vanillin (chemically methyl protocatechuic aldehyde), but other substances present aid the flavour. Ethyl vanillin is a synthetic substance which does not occur in the vanilla bean, patented by German chemist Ferdinand Tiemann, 1875; 3½ times as strong in flavour, and more stable to storage than vanillin, but does not have the true flavour.

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vanilla having no special or extra features; ordinary. The term is a figurative use of vanilla as the default or standard flavour of ice-cream; it was used first with reference to sexual activity, and then from the early 1980s was applied particularly to computing equipment in the form supplied as standard by the manufacturer, without any optional additions or extra equipment.

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vanilla Climbing orchid native to Mexico. The vines bear greenish-yellow flowers that produce seed-pods 20cm (8in) long, which are the source of the flavouring vanilla. Family Orchidaceae; species Vanilla planifolia.

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vanilla (pod of) climbing orchid of the genus Vanilla XVII; aromatic substance obtained therefrom XVIII. — Sp. vainilla, dim. of vaina sheath:- L. vāgīna VAGINA.

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