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Cinnamon

The cinnamon tree is native to Sri Lanka. Ceylon cinnamon, also known as “true cinnamon” is traded as the highest quality type of cinnamon, due to its very subtle, balanced, sweet, warm-aromatic and fiery aroma.

History

Allegedly, cinnamon was used in China already 3000 B.C. during the times of the mythical emperor Shen-Nung and therefore is considered one of the oldest spices in the world. Like pepper, nutmeg and cloves it provoked heated quarrels during the Middle Ages about a monopoly in the cinnamon trade. The Arab traders closely guarded the secret of the origin of the cinnamon tree. Around 1536, the Portuguese occupied Ceylon and thus conquered the “cinnamon monopoly”, which they lost again 130 years later to the Dutch.

1796 the English arrived and took over control on Ceylon and the monopoly of the island’s cinnamon. Only as late as 1833, the Dutch succeeded in cultivating the cinnamon tree on Java and thus broke the monopoly.  

Cultivation

The evergreen Ceylon cinnamon tree with its reddish bark is pruned to maintain a height of 2.5 to 3 meters.  The leaves are oval and shiny its shoots are reddish and smell of cinnamon oil. Harvesting can only start four years after planting.
For cinnamon production, only the thin inner layer of the cinnamon tree’s bark is used. The thinner the bark, the finer the flavor. When the shoots are about two years old, they are debarked with a circular and a longitudinal cut. These roughly one meter long pieces of bark are then wrapped in mats and fermented over night. Afterwards the outer bark is scraped off to get to the inner bark, which has the highest content of cinnamon. The stripped off inner bark rolls curl inwards from both sides and these sticks are what is called “true cinnamon”. Eight to ten of these inner barks are telescoped inside each other – to a so-called quill – and these quills are then dried first in the shade and then in the sun which produces their characteristic red-brown color.
All parts of the cinnamon tree contain ethereal oil that produces the typical aroma and taste. It mainly consists of cinnamic aldehyde and is very sensitive to heat and light. Cinnamon oil is extracted by distilling unripe dried fruit, flowers, bark pieces and leaves of the cassia cinnamon tree.
Primarily two kinds of cinnamon are economically used – the Ceylon cinnamon, the true cinnamon and the Chinese cinnamon, the Cassia cinnamon. Due to the finer aroma, Ceylon cinnamon is more popular in Europe than Cassia cinnamon, which due to its higher content of ethereal oils is much stronger.

Usage

 Cinnamon is available as sticks or powder and is next to cloves the most frequently used spice in the liqueur industry.  In Central Europe it is primarily used for sweet things like biscuits, cakes, tarts, Christmas cookies, chocolate, candies, fruit salads, ice cream, baked apples, rice and semolina pudding, sweet sauces or soups and stewed or pickled fruit and chutneys. Also in Arab and Persian countries or in North Africa cinnamon is used to prepare sweet and hearty meals.

For healing purposes only true cinnamon should be used. Thanks to the ethereal oils, it stimulates circulation and digestion. The production of digestive juices starts already in the mouth, it also stimulates the production of gastric and bile juices. It reliefs flatulence, reduces colon inflammations, widens the blood vessels, lowers blood pressure and stabilizes it. Ceylon cinnamon has an antibacterial and fungicidal effect. It is also applicable in case of loss of appetite, diabetes, muscular pains and menopausal symptoms. Applied externally, it eases rheumatic and back pain and is an extremely good remedy when you have cold feet.
You should definitely try the effect of cinnamon tea. Crush a cinnamon stick, pour hot water over it and leave it for 5 minutes. Another proven household remedy is a cinnamon compress to relieve pain. Drown a cloth into cinnamon tea and put it on the aching place for 20 minutes.

You can find pictures around the cinnamon processing in the gallery.