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Heymatt:

Why do stores south of the border have such an abundance of vanilla extract for sale? The world wonders.

Mark, Ocean Beach

Well, at any rate, you wonder, Mark. I'm more likely to wonder at the questioners, not the questions.

Southern Mexico produces some of the world's best vanilla extract, obtained from the seed pods of certain orchids. It's very pricey, no matter where you buy it. So what's all that bargain-basement, dollar-a-gallon vanilla stuff? According to the Cooperative Extension at UC Davis, it's cheap because it's not real vanilla. It's made from tonka beans, which yield a quite adequate substitute for the real thing. Tonka beans contain coumarin, a chemical precursor to dicoumeral, which is a blood-thinning agent, so the FDA nixed it's import. You can buy here the inexpensive Mexican vanilla thats had the coumarin removed, if you're concerned about it.

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