Kids in the rain forests of the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America, where the vanilla orchid plant grows naturally, have been enjoying the flavor of the cured vanilla bean for thousands of years. The mystery of the vanilla bean is how it was ever discovered, prepared to release its hidden flavor, cured, and used with chocolate so long ago. There are thousands of species of orchids. The vanilla orchid flower has some fragrance, but the unripe seed pod has neither the taste nor smell of vanilla. Only after the seedpod is picked unripe and cured for several months does it develop into a delicious flavor. The wild vanilla vine with its broad leaves uses forest trees as support as it grows. Bees and hummingbirds pollinate the yellow orchid flowers and in a few months it produces an elongated pod containing millions of tiny seeds. The slender green vanilla pods are about 5 to 10 inches long. Unripe pods are dried on trays in the sun and heated rooms for many weeks before being boxed for several more months of curing. Prepared and sorted vanilla beans can be stored for years. Vanilla is the second most expensive spice next to saffron because growing the vanilla seed pod is so labor intensive. In cooking, the vanilla bean has a long lasting flavor and can be used, washed, dried, and used many more times. Kids can also use pure organic vanilla extract in their recipes. This liquid is extracted from chopped vanilla beans in an alcohol and water solution, percolated, strained, and aged. Or kids can carefully cut open a whole organic vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds to add a wonderful flavor to many homemade treats.