Vanilla is a flavoring derived from orchids of the genus Vanilla native to Mexico. Vanilla is used in two main forms: the seeds of the vanilla pod and the extract made from the seeds.
Vanilla pods or beans
Vanilla pods or beans are sometimes used whole to flavour things like sugar or alcohol. Other times they are split and their tiny seeds are extracted to be used as a flavouring.
Vanilla extract is used mainly in baking to impart a distinctive flavour to baked goods. It is also used to flavour ice cream and even as a perfume. It can be purchased in pure form or artificial, the latter being less expensive, but considered inferior by some. It usually contains a high percentage of alcohol and may be dark-coloured or clear.