The American President Who Introduced Vanilla To The US

Vanilla is such an everyday flavor that it's hard to imagine a time without it, as it's largely noted as one of the best ice cream flavors and even the world's favorite scent (via Smithsonian). Surprisingly, vanilla's widespread popularity hasn't always been so, and given its tedious harvesting process, the precious bean hasn't always been guaranteed such popularity among our collective senses.

Harvesting vanilla is not for the weak. According to Saveur, the lengthy process begins when the finicky flower that the bean pollinates from opens up. This only happens one day a year, and if failed to be pollinated, there's no vanilla being harvested from that flower that year. Beyond only having a small window of opportunity, pollinating the vanilla is an incredibly tedious process that, to this day, has to be done manually with a small needle. If everything goes correctly during pollination, there is still the time-consuming process of harvesting and maturing the pod. With all that can go wrong, in the U.S. vanilla has a president to thank for its popularity.

Thomas Jefferson brings vanilla to America

Originally from South America, Central America, and the Caribbean, the bean made its way over to Europe after Spain conquered the Aztecs (via National Geographic). Popular in Europe, President Thomas Jefferson was first introduced to the sweet treat, not on the American continent Jefferson called home, but in France. According to Rodelle Kitchen, Jefferson was the one who first introduced the United States to vanilla in 1789. Spending a lot of time in France as the Ambassador, one of the souvenirs Jefferson brought home was the vanilla bean. While one of the last countries to get introduced to the sweet flavor, the U.S. quickly fell in love with its sweetness and is now the largest consumer of vanilla in the world, with Europe a close second.

Vanilla isn't the only food associated with the president, and his many voyages to Europe have helped credit Jefferson with bringing over french fries and macaroni pasta. Thank you President Jefferson for these monumental additions to America.