Mexican vanilla: Is gift real thing?

BURNING QUESTIONS

September 12, 2007|By Kathleen Purvis | Kathleen Purvis,McClatchy-Tribune

My wife received a bottle of Mexican vanilla from a friend. It smells more like baby powder than vanilla. Any idea what this is?

Baking experts recognize real Mexican vanilla as some of the best in the world But there is also synthetic vanilla made in Mexico. And there have been cases of synthetic vanilla doctored with a substance called coumarin, which can be toxic and is linked to kidney and liver damage. Good vanilla should be labeled "coumarin free."

There are ways to spot the synthetics. If the alcohol level below is 35 percent, or if the color is too dark, too light or murky, you probably have synthetic. Another clue is scent. If the vanilla smells fake, it probably is.

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