A UW-Madison expert on vanilla orchids crosses the world to ensure that the spice it produces remains a valuable agricultural product.
Madison— To Ken Cameron, vanilla is a lot sexier than its name implies.
The world's leading expert on the biology of vanilla orchids sees the popular spice, not as plain or ordinary, but as a beautifully complex and valuable commodity produced from the world's largest family of plants.
While bottles of vanilla extract fly off store shelves at this time of year as holiday bakers mix it into cakes, pies and cookies, vanilla is much more than a pastry chef's favorite spice.
Deodorants, household cleaners, popular brands of vodka, pill coatings, the finest perfumes, even Coke and Pepsi count vanilla as an ingredient. And, of course, it's the No. 1 selling ice cream.
"I often tell people, 'I'll challenge you that within 10 minutes of waking, you will encounter vanilla,'" Cameron said in his book- and plant-filled office at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he's a botany professor and director of the Wisconsin State Herbarium."
Read more from Journal Sentinel: http://www.jsonline.com/newswatch/to-uw-madison-professor-theres-nothing-ordinary-about-vanilla-b99156145z1-236666281.html#ixzz2q3Z6nlzh
Follow us: @JournalSentinel on Twitter
Via Eve Emshwiller, Mary Williams