Vanilla is the fruit of an orchid plant, which grows in the form of a bean pod. Although there are over 110 varieties of vanilla orchids, only one, Vanilla planifolia, produces the fruit which gives us 99 percent of commercial vanilla. Vanilla is the second most expensive spice after saffron, due to the extensive labor required to grow the vanilla seed pods. The vanilla bean grows quickly on the vine but is not ready for harvest until maturity - approximately nine months. Harvesting vanilla beans is as labor intensive as pollinating the blossoms. Immature dark green pods are not harvested. Pale yellow discoloration which commences at the distal end of the beans is an indication of the maturity of pods. Each bean ripens at its own time, requiring a daily harvest. To ensure the finest flavor from every bean, each individual pod must be picked by hand just as it begins to split on the end. Despite the expense, it is highly valued for its flavor.