Vanilla beans are from the aromatic pods of a variety of orchid. They are used to make vanilla extract and are used on their own as a flavoring. The dried aromatic beans are sold in well-stocked food stores and specialty-food shops; wrap them in plastic and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
To remove seeds from a vanilla bean:
Using a small knife, cut the bean in half lengthwise. With the tip of the knife, scrape the tiny seeds from each half.