What Is Organic Vanilla?

G. Wiesen

Organic vanilla typically refers to either vanilla beans grown using organic methods or vanilla extract made using such beans and maintaining further organic guidelines. While a company can potentially claim that vanilla is organically grown, most companies have their vanilla certified as organic by a government agency. Different agencies in different countries handle such certification; in the US, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) typically handles it. Organic vanilla must usually be grown without the use of non-organic fertilizers, and the use of pesticides and other chemicals is typically forbidden in the growing and processing of such vanilla.

Dried vanilla beans.
Dried vanilla beans.

Anyone interested in purchasing organic vanilla, in either bean or extract form, should consider the certification of any company that sells such vanilla. Vanilla beans can be grown in many different countries in different parts of the world; major companies that distribute vanilla beans or extract often receive vanilla from numerous small farms. This can make controlling and monitoring the growing and processing methods of such farms difficult for many companies. Since these farms are also located in different countries, some government agencies that oversee certification of organic vanilla may not be present in those countries.

Organic vanilla adds flavor to cookies.
Organic vanilla adds flavor to cookies.

This means that proper examination of farming practices for certification of organic vanilla may be quite difficult, and so care should be taken by anyone looking to purchase such vanilla. Most companies provide information regarding how the vanilla that is sold by them is certified, including the type of certification and the name of the certifying agency. Government agencies that certify organic foods, such as the FDA, often provide information regarding such certification procedures via the Internet or by contacting the agency. This allows people to more easily compare different types of organic vanilla to ensure that the vanilla they purchase meets their expectations.

Organic vanilla is typically grown using only organic products and without the addition of chemicals or harsh pesticides. Fertilizer might not be used at all for producing organic products, though some growers may use only natural and organic fertilizers to ensure healthy land management without introducing potentially harmful chemicals. Pesticides are often a major source of controversy between growers and consumers, and most organic growers do not use pesticides or use only organic pesticides that are easily washed off of food. Organic vanilla beans are then dried and processed without any other inorganic additives, and vanilla extract made organically uses only organic alcohol to produce the extract.

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