Cinnamon dates back as far as the Old Testament times, during which it was considered to be a genuine treasure – even more precious than gold (“Cinnamon, ground”). This flavoring agent was once available exceptionally to noble classes, but eventually has become an integral part of our modern-day cooking. Almost every housewife around the world can boast about having this spice in her kitchen cupboard. Besides its excellent culinary properties, cinnamon is also valued for its medicinal benefits. The current paper aims at providing a thorough description of this priceless treasure that has become available to almost everybody.
The island country of Sri Lanka, located in South Asia, is considered to be the authentic home of cinnamon. The historical records reveal that it was imported to ancient Egypt as early as 2,000 B.C. (“The history”). Before the discussion regarding this spice proceeds, it is essential to outline its main types. While there are several hundreds of varieties of cinnamon, only four of them are employed for commercial purposes: Ceylon, Cassia, Saigon, and Korintje (“The history”). However, particularly the first two are the types that the consumers are best accustomed to. Synan states that Cassia is a cheaper kind than all the above mentioned and can be purchased in grocery stores (Falkowitz). On the contrary, Ceylon cinnamon is rather difficult to find in the local food markets, as it is the higher-priced variety. Sri Lanka continues to be the source of 90% of world’s supply of this type of the spice (“The history”). Due to the island’s distinctive climate, it acquires the finest quality with the lowest levels of contaminants and impurities. For this reason, Ceylon cinnamon is referred to as a ‘true cinnamon’ (“The history”). Specifically this kind began the world’s history of cinnamon and was initially employed by the Egyptians. Cassia is often called Chinese cinnamon, and in the United States, it is often marketed simply as cinnamon (Asaff). Indonesia remains the primary provider of 40% of this kind of spice’s world’s supply (“The history”).
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Cinnamon spice is obtained from the cinnamon tree, a type of tropical evergreen tree that belongs to the genus Cinnamomum (Asaff). They are harvested twice a year following the rainy seasons (Asaff). The Ceylon cinnamon farmers do not touch young trees for two years after planting. Then, they prune them rather harshly causing them to sliver in numerous directions. After that, the farmers remove all the small shoots and leave them to ferment. Lastly, they remove the outer brown bark and shave off the inner, much softer layers, stacking them and leaving to dry (Asaff). The latter curl up into tight sticks known as ‘quills.’ The lower older bark is used to manufacture ground cinnamon. Besides Sri Lanka, Ceylon cinnamon is also grown in South India (Asaff).
The Cassia cinnamon farmers allow the trees to grow to fifteen meters in height and until the time the buds develop and the leaves become large and thick (Asaff). Then, the entire branches or even trees are cut down, and the peeled bark is sold in huge chunks (Asaff). The inner crust is left to curl up into quills that look much thicker in comparison to the Ceylon ones. The older bark is also used to make ground cinnamon. Besides Indonesia, Cassia cinnamon is also produced in China and Vietnam (Asaff).
Synan notes that Cassia cinnamon has a strong smell and flavor compared to Ceylon’s much sweeter flavor and milder smell (Falkowitz). Falkowitz observes that the latter type also has a floral vanilla flavor with warm hints of honeyed fruit (Web n.p.). Thus, the flavor profile of this kind of spice reveals several layers: spicy, sweet, and floral. However, Cassia cinnamon is characterized by having peppery, bitter, and sweet notes of flavor.
In the United States, cinnamon is commonly used in the recipes of desserts, such as cinnamon rolls, apple pies, doughnuts, and sweet bread. This spice is also widely employed in the Mexican, Turkish, Persian, and Middle Eastern cuisines. For example, in the cinnamon rolls recipes, the spice is used as one of the filling ingredients. In Mexico, it can be found in most of the types of local candy, chocolate, and gum. One of the ways to prepare rice according to the Mexican cuisine is to simmer it together with cinnamon and other ingredients in the frying pan (PaulaG). In Turkey, the spice is widely used in meat dishes as well as drinks. One of them is a hot drink called salep, which is made with milk, sugar, and exclusive flour produced from the wild orchids (“Turkish hot milk”). The central ingredient of salep is cinnamon that is generously sprinkled on the top of a drink (“Turkish hot milk”). In various countries, the spice is also used as a flavorant in alcoholic beverages and as an essential ingredient of tea, coffee, hot chocolate, and cocoa.
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Ever since it was discovered, cinnamon has always been prized for its numerous health benefits. It remains an effective remedy for diabetes, asthma, arthritis, psoriasis, menstrual complications, peptic ulcers, heart disease, and even cancer (Asaff). It is renowned for its antiviral, anti-microbial, and blood-sugar controlling properties (“Cinnamon, ground”). According to the research conducted by Dr. P. Zoladz, smelling cinnamon and chewing gum with such flavor enhance brain functions, particularly attention and memory (“Cinnamon, ground”). The spice is recommended as a part of various weight-loss plans, as it maintains a healthy metabolism (“Cinnamon, ground”). Due to its warming properties, it is best recognized for the inflammatory and soothing qualities. For instance, it can be mixed with a tea to relieve cold or flu symptoms.
Nowadays, cinnamon remains a truly priceless treasure. Various countries and regions around the world adopted this spice into their traditional cuisines. Numerous research studies confirmed its benefits for human health. Once available only to the aristocracy, it was a symbol of status and prominence.