The History of Vanilla
Updated: Feb 22
Vanilla is a member of the orchid family, a sprawling conglomeration of some 25,000 different species. Vanilla is a native of South and Central America and the Caribbean; and the first people to have cultivated it seem to have been the Totonacs of Mexico’s east coast. The Aztecs acquired vanilla when they conquered the Totonacs in the 15th Century; the Spanish, in turn, got it when they conquered the Aztecs. One source claims that it was introduced to western Europe by Hernán Cortés-though at the time it was eclipsed by his other American imports, which included jaguars, opossums, an armadillo, and an entire team of ballplayers equipped with bouncing rubber balls.