Wild Vanilla...who knew?


  • Tave
    Tave Posts: 952 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Thanks for the information. I still can't believe how expensive vanilla beans have gotten. I paid $70 for a pound over five years ago. The next time I tried to buy them to make vanilla extract, they were over $700/pound if you could even find them. The price has gone down to around $300/pound. Needless to say, I'm making the beans I still have last.

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,624 admin

    I knew about cleavers medicinal uses and some of the culinary uses but this is a new one for me. Who would have thought! Sweet woodruff grows everywhere here.

    I can't wait to try this. I will report back once I have.

  • MaryRowe
    MaryRowe Posts: 736 ✭✭✭✭

    Rats. We have bedstraw (G. aparine) around here, but I have never found sweet woodruff. Looks like I'll have to try to get some started. I see that Mountain Rose Herbs sells dried sweet woodruff--at $35 or so a pound it's still a lot cheaper than vanilla beans. But how much better if you can forage or grow your own!

    What a great article though--I had no idea!

  • judsoncarroll4
    judsoncarroll4 Posts: 5,455 admin

    I got into coumarin a bit in my last podcast. Such herbs are very useful, but need to be dried and stored properly,

  • LaurieLovesLearning
    LaurieLovesLearning Posts: 7,505 admin

    @torey Awesome. Looking forward to the end result!

    @judsoncarroll4 That's a good reminder for everyone. Thanks!

    @Tave I'm making mine last too. It really isn't needed in everything. The recipes I do choose to use the liquid gold in are very special.

  • vickeym
    vickeym Posts: 2,102 ✭✭✭✭✭

    This is very interesting. I have recently started making my own vanilla.

    I found a co-op (won't share without permission) that is pretty reasonable compared to most others for buying vanilla beans, but this could prove worth a try too. I currently have extractions going for Madagascar vanilla beans, Ugandan vanilla beans and Indonesian vanilla beans. First extract won't be ready until July or August.

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,624 admin

    @vickeym I checked with the E-flora map and it shows this particular Galium growing in Alaska. Some near where you are, so you should be able to find some in the spring.

  • water2world
    water2world Posts: 1,155 ✭✭✭✭

    @ LaurieLovesLearning Thanks for the link! Guess I should never be surprised! LOL

    Something new to try!

  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,980 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited January 2022

    I see seeds for sweet woodruff are available from a variety of sources, including Fedco. I have no idea where I'd find a wild source locally, but if it grows as an untended weed, it should easily be started from seed in my yard.

    Fedco notes claim that it is very slow to germinate, up to 200 days(!), so you are looking at starting it one year for possible harvest the next. Like asparagus, it needs to be a long-term project.

    On the bright side, it can grow in a "woodland" site, so you can use the shady parts of your yard where your primary fruits and vegetables won't grow.

    I cringe at the price of vanilla, so this is absolutely worth some effort!

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,624 admin

    I have found Sweet Woodruff plants at garden centres so that might be an option rather than starting from seeds if you want some right away.

    I have several species of Galium that grow in my area. G. odoratum (the "official" Sweet Woodruff) is native to Eurasia and North Africa but G. triflorum is the North American version. Its official common name is Sweet-scented Woodruff and very common here. @VermontCathy, my map shows it is fairly common in New England, too.

    For everyone, here is a link to the E-flora BC info on this plant. If you click where it says "Click here" under the map, it will open a new map page where you can expand the map to find your area.

    If you click on the link under the picture it will take you to a page of several more pictures which might help make identification easier.

  • JennyT Upstate South Carolina
    JennyT Upstate South Carolina Posts: 1,273 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I believe I have a sweet woodruff plant in a pot in my front yard!

    I'll have to confirm that though. I bought several a few years ago from a local nursery but the labels have disappeared and I'm unsure of a couple of them.

    But if I'm correct and it is sweet woodruff I'm stoked! Because I love baking so being able to make my own extract from what's right out my front door would be awesome!😁

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,624 admin

    @JennyT Upstate South Carolina Check out the pics in the link above. Its pretty easy to identify. Square stems. Leaves in a whorl around the stem. If it is G. triflorum it will be a bit sticky like velcro (not so much with G. odoratum). Really likes the shaded understory of the forest.

  • vickeym
    vickeym Posts: 2,102 ✭✭✭✭✭

    torey Thank you. Will have to look for it come spring.

    Anytime you make vanilla extract it is a lengthy project. At least for the real stuff. Depending on the alcohol you use it is recommended to extract for 12 months minimum. The darker stronger alcohols are 18 months or more.

    My first one should be ready mid July. Can't wait. Never knew how many different types of vanilla there were with differences in the flavor notes to many of them.

    Will be interesting to find the sweet woodruff and give it a try. See how it compares.

  • Merin Porter
    Merin Porter Posts: 1,026 admin

    You are so right. I was looking into making homemade vanilla extract a few years ago, and I couldn't believe how expensive they were. I just don't use enough vanilla to be able to justify spending that much making it. If the price per pound ever goes down significantly, I do want to try it, though!