Do you know the difference between organic and natural? Most people don’t and it can be a little tricky. In this video, the Flavor Guy compares organic vanilla beans and natural vanilla beans.
What are their differences? At first glance, they seem to be the same. Very long beans, 14-16cm long. By looking and smelling them, it can be hard for a flavor chemist to tell the difference. They both smell like vanilla!
According to the rules of organic, you can’t use any pesticides and you can’t use any synthetics of any kind.
Petroleum-based fertilizers, herbicides, or any wood borders that were coated with copper sulfate. They have to grow in an almost unadulterated and virgin soil-like environment.
To the right of The Flavor Guy is natural. This means they could have used any number of chemicals to grow it. To keep bugs from bothering it.
To his left, is certified organic. This means there was no use of chemicals. In this case, The Flavor Guy knows these two different varieties are actually the same variety of vanilla beans. But they were grown hundreds of miles apart.
The organic bean uses all-natural fertilizers, NPK [Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium]. Nothing synthetic was sprayed onto them to keep pests away. Plus, they smell exactly the same as the natural. But if these vanilla beans were looked on a GC (Gas Chromatography) or GCMS (Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry), you would see those chemicals, because they’re still there.
Even though we can’t see them and we can’t smell them. When in synthetic pesticides are used they drop residues that stay with the plant.
Some chemical companies who supply the pesticides argue that after thirty days, they’re gone. They’re not present any more. But the fact is, they are.
In most cases, they’re absorbed into the plant material in some amount, and they’re still present. Maybe in small quantities, they are probably are harmless but it’s a risk we’re not willing to take.
If you keep eating the same vanilla bean over and over again, you accumulate some of those chemicals. Who knows what it does to your liver, brain, or other parts of your body.
Their differences aren’t detectable to most eyes and noses. But if you know about it and you’re paying for something to be organic, you deserve to have organic.
Now, when we make a vanilla extract, we use organic alcohol, organic glycerin, water, sugar, to help process this product. We do offer natural vanilla extract but our approach is not like most companies. We test natural vanilla beans to ensure they don’t have any pesticides in them.
It’s fascinating that in the world of vanilla extract, you can use a petroleum-based solvent like propylene glycol and make a vanilla extract. And it will still be a vanilla extract. This raises questions like, “can people hide things in a natural product that are synthetic and get away with it?”
Well, here’s a case where it’s actually known that petroleum-based propylene glycol is used in vanilla extract. Everything in it is assumed to be all-natural except for the propylene glycol.
Other than this, there isn’t really any difference, visually, or organoleptically, they smell and taste the same.
It doesn’t matter only with vanilla extract. This issue happens with crops like sunflower oil or even grapes. It’s just the way the crops are grown and what farmers use to keep pests away. But also, what they used to cause the plant to grow faster.
It’s not that the crop is bad for you. The issue lies with the questionable materials used to get that product to grow and get it to market.
We hope this answers any questions you have about organic and natural.