Cinnamon is an ancient spice that comes from the bark of several species of the Cinnamomum genus of evergreen trees, which belong to the laurel family. The most popular types of cinnamon are native to Sri Lanka and China, though cinnamon is grown throughout Asia, Europe, and North America.
Flavour Profile – Cinnamon has a warm, sweet flavour and pungent aroma. The taste and scent come from cinnamaldehyde, which makes up most of the essential oil of cinnamon, but also 80 additional aromatic compounds.
Did you know? – Cinnamon and cassia have been used as a spice for thousands of years, even utilized during embalming in ancient Egypt and scenting anointing oil in the Old Testament. It was brought to these areas via land and sea spice routes from India and China, but the sources were kept secret by Arab spice traders.
It is one of the spices that led European explorers to seek sea routes to Asia and the spice islands. Eventually, Portuguese explorers found the source in Ceylon and gained control of the trade. The wars that followed that then turned control over to the Dutch and then the British.
Grow me – Native to China, this isn’t one to grow in the UK but here is a bit of info about how it is grown and harvested.
Cinnamon is an evergreen tree characterized by oval-shaped leaves, thick bark, and a berry fruit. When harvesting the spice, the bark and leaves are the primary parts of the plant used. Cinnamon is cultivated by growing the tree for two years, then coppicing it, i.e., cutting the stems at ground level. The following year, about a dozen new shoots form from the roots, replacing those that were cut.
The stems must be processed immediately after harvesting while the inner bark is still wet. The cut stems are processed by scraping off the outer bark, then beating the branch evenly with a hammer to loosen the inner bark, which is then pried off in long rolls. Only 0.5 mm of the inner bark is used; the outer, woody portion is discarded, leaving metre-long cinnamon strips that curl into rolls (“quills”) on drying. The processed bark dries completely in four to six hours, provided it is in a well-ventilated and relatively warm environment. Once dry, the bark is cut into 5 to 10 cm (2 to 4 in) lengths for sale.
Distilled in – Wildjac Honey Spiced Rum