The strongest flavor is in the tiny seeds and the pulp surrounding them, so the pod should be split open and the seeds scraped out for adding to custards or ice creams. Infusing a vanilla pod in hot liquid is an economical way to extract the flavor, as the pod can then be rinsed, dried and used again, usually as many as two or three times.
A good way to store vanilla pods after use, particularly when they have been recycled a few times, is in a jar of caster sugar. The sugar can then absorb the flavor of the pods and they will keep almost indefinitely. Top up the sugar as you use it, for example in desserts, sprinkled over fruit such as fresh berries. You can also store used vanilla pods in a bottle of brandy or dark rum. The alcohol can then be used as a flavoring agent in cooking, folded into whipped cream or simply splashed over fruit salads or ice cream. However, very fresh vanilla pods, which are moist and supple, are best kept wrapped in cellophane bags or foil; storing them in caster sugar will dry them out.