Cinnamon comes from the inner bark of a tree and is widely used as a condiment and additive in a wide variety of cuisines.
In its whole form it appears as sheets of bark which roll into cigar shaped quills when dried. It has a mid-brown colour.
Ground cinnamon is a very fine powder and is commonly used in baking.
It has an earthy and peppery flavour and it adds a sweet and spicy taste to dishes.
Cinnamon is commonly used both in the preparation of Indian and curry dishes and in spice mixes.
Cinnamon is an evergreen tree with oval shaped leaves and thick bark. It is the bark and leaves that are mostly used.
It is native to India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Myanmar (Burma).
It was imported to Egypt from 2000 BC and was highly prized amongst ancient nations. It was often given as a gift to kings and offered as gifts to gods.
In Ancient Egypt it was used to embalm mummies and was used as a flavouring for wine in Arabia.
Dutch traders exported cinnamon to Europe from Sri Lanka where it became popular for a variety of culinary uses.
Uses for Cinnamon
Cinnamon is a key ingredient in garam masala and masala chai (tea) and is one of the five basic whole spices in Indian cooking.
Ground cinnamon generally has a stronger taste when put into dishes than placing the dried bark into the dish to steep whilst cooking, which releases its flavour more slowly and subtly.
Fat, whether it is from cooking oil or ghee or from meat, will help to activate the flavour of cinnamon and keeps it from diluting during the cooking process.
This is why it works so well as an ingredient in baked goods such as cinnamon rolls and pastries.
In savoury dishes it adds warming spice to soups, as a rub on light meats such as pork and chicken and when added to roasted vegetables.
Cinnamon sticks are particularly good for dishes that are simmered for a lengthy period and add fragrance and warmth (rather than spicy heat) to a dish.
Medicinal uses for Cinnamon
Cinnamon is known as a powerful antioxidant, outranking even highly acknowledged foods such as garlic and is consequently used as a natural food preservative.
It has anti-inflammatory properties and is said to help the body fight infection and help to repair tissue damage, particularly in chronic or long-standing inflammation or tissue damage.
The use of half a teaspoon of cinnamon per day has been shown to be beneficial to type 2 diabetics and can improve sensitivity to insulin.
It has been linked to the reduction of heart disease.
Taking 120 milligrams per day of cinnamon reduces levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol whilst retaining ‘good’ cholesterol in the blood.