Enough of history, lets go back to the culinary use. Most of the beans are collected to make extract and very little in comparison is intended for kitchen use.
Ideally, the bean should be between 7 to 9 inches in length. It should be harvested when the tips start turning yellow, and it is OK if the bean has a little split. It should have a dark chocolate brown or black color and you should be able to warp it around your finger without breaking it.
The bean's essence is in the vanillin that covers the seeds. The skin should be chopped up and use with the seeds. Store the bean in your granulated sugar to flavor your coffee and in your confectionery sugar for your meringues. If the beans become hard, drop them in the recipe liquid, water or milk, until soft never attempt to split a bean that its hard because you will injure yourself, wait until the bean is soft and them proceed remember to keep the finger always BEHIND the knife 1/2 inch or more.