Vanilla is a flavoring derived from orchids of the genus Vanilla, primarily from the Mexican species, flat-leaved vanilla (V. planifolia). It is the second-most expensive spice after saffron because growing the vanilla seed pods is labor-intensive. Despite the expense, vanilla is highly valued for its flavor. Three major species of vanilla currently are grown globally: V. planifolia (being the most common), V. tahitensis and V. pompona. In addition to varieties, there are also different grades of vanilla beans. Grade A beans are longer and more moist, and Grade B beans are less pretty and usually recommended for making extract. Grade B beans are less expensive.
Vanilla is widely used in both commercial and domestic baking, perfume manufacture, and aromatherapy. Natural vanilla gives a brown or yellow color to preparations, depending on the concentration.