Breaking Bread: Price jump for vanilla stems from crop woes
How can it possibly be June 1?
So much for spring cleaning: My desk and email inbox are still pretty full.
Technically, I have a few weeks of spring left, so I’ll make use of the time to share tidbits that have piled up.
I recently heard from a reader in Westerville who wants to know why vanilla extract has become so expensive.
“I was at Costco a few weeks ago and was shocked to notice that the price of its vanilla extract had more than doubled,” Shirley Martin wrote. “I priced McCormick’s at Kroger and saw that the price was significantly higher, also. Is there a drought, civil war or some other crisis in the area where vanilla beans are grown that has caused a big jump in cost?”
Bonus points to Martin for being such a price-savvy shopper: Vanilla prices have indeed taken a giant leap since January.
The increase has resulted from a bad crop last year in Madagascar, the island nation off the southeast coast of Africa where most of the world’s vanilla is produced.
Prized for its creamy flavor, Madagascar vanilla is used widely in the production of ice cream — so don’t be surprised if the price of your favorite scoop of vanilla rises, too.
Higher prices for vanilla from other top producing countries — Indonesia and Mexico — reflect the supply and demand.
The good news is that the vanilla market, known for volatility, swings the other way as rapidly as it swings higher.
The crop this year in Madagascar is expected to return to normal yields, meaning that prices will probably drop when the fresh harvest gets to the market in late fall.
For now, you should shop for vanilla extract with care and hope that prices drop before holiday baking begins.
We have plenty to do before then — much of which involves planting, tending and harvesting gardens, whether they encompass the whole backyard or a few pots on the patio.
Recently, I received information from Scotts Miracle-Gro about a new gardening app called Gro. (Folks who use Apple phones and tablets can download the app free at the iTunes store.)
A suggestion from the app: Plant a cocktail garden.
I’ve heard of a pizza garden (tomatoes, peppers, basil, garlic) and a salsa garden (hot peppers, onion, garlic, tomatoes) — so why not a garden of garnishes for adult beverages?
The recommended plantings: Mint, lavender, basil and rosemary.
Because the herbs are planted together in one large pot, the choice is perfect for patio gardeners, too. Cheers.
While on the subject of harvests, I want to let you know I’ll visit Pearl Market (at Pearl and Lynn alleys Downtown between East Broad and East Gay streets) once a month through September to cook tasty dishes with market produce.
My demonstrations will begin at 11 a.m. June 24, July 29, Aug. 19 and Sept. 23.
I’ll also have recipe cards and food samples to give away. (The samples go quickly, so try to arrive early.)
Here is an example of the types of veggie recipes I offer.
See you at the market.
SUMMER CHOPPED SALAD
Makes 8 to 10 servings
For the salad:
1 cup chopped tomatoes, with their juice
1 cup chopped cucumber
½ cup chopped green bell pepper
½ cup chopped red bell pepper
1 cup chopped celery
½ cup carrots, sliced into small circles
1 cup Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
¼ cup chopped red onion
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
For the dressing:
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/8 cup red wine vinegar
In a large bowl, combine tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, celery, carrots, beans, onion and parsley. Season with salt and pepper, and toss to combine.
In a separate bowl, whisk together garlic, oil and vinegar. Season with additional salt and pepper, if desired. Pour dressing over salad and toss.
PER SERVING: 118 calories, 3 g protein, 11 g carbohydrates, 3 g fiber, 2 g sugars, 7 g fat (1 g saturated), 0 mg cholesterol, 212 mg sodium
— Lisa Abraham writes about food for The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch. Email her at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter at @DispatchKitchen.