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Cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum)
Lauraceae (laurel family)
Cinnamomum zeylanicum originates from the island Sri Lanka (formerly called Ceylon), southeast of India. It is also native to south-west India and the Tenasserim Hills of Burma. Several attempts have been made to transplant cinnamon trees to other parts of the tropic world, but they have become naturalized only on the Seychelles.
Used plant part
Strongly aromatic, sweet, pleasant, warm and but hardly bitter or adstringent.
The essential oil of cinnamon bark (max. 4%) is dominated by the two phenylpropanoids cinnamaldehyd (3-phenyl-acrolein, 65 to 75%) and eugenol (4-(1-propene-3-yl)-2-methoxy-phenol, 5 to 10%). Other phenylpropanoids (safrole, cinnamic acid esters), mono- and sesquiterpenes, although occurring only in traces, do significantly influence the taste of cinnamon. Another trace component relevant for the quality is 2-heptanone (methyl-n-amyl-ketone). The slime content of the bark is rather low (3%).
From cinnamon leaves, another essential oil (1%) can be obtained that consists mainly of eugenol (70 to 95%) and can be used as a substitute for clove . Small amounts (1 to 5%) of cinnamaldehyde, benzyl benzoate, linalool and ß-caryophyllene have also been found.
Ceylon cinnamon quills
Cinnamon is an ancient spice mentioned several times in the Old Testament, although only Chinese cinnamon (cassia) has been known in the West until the 16.th century. Compared to the Chinese species, Ceylon cinnamon has a more delicate aroma and is the dominating quality on the Western market.
Since Ceylon cinnamon is native in South Asia, it is not surprising that the cuisines of Sri Lanka and India make heavy use of it. It is equally suited for the fiery beef curries of Sri Lanka and the subtle, fragrant rice dishes (biriyanis) of the Emperial North Indian cuisine. It is also widely in use for flavouring tea. Cinnamon is also popular in all regions where Persian or Arab influence is felt: West, South West and Central Asia, Northern and Eastern Africa.
Although cinnamon was very popular in Europe in the 16th to 18th centuries, is importance is now rather shrunken: the main application for cinnamon in Western cooking are several kinds of desserts; stewed fruits, for instance, are usually flavoured with a mixture of cloves and cinnamon. Cinnamon is, however, only rarely tried for spicy dishes.
In India, cinnamon is applied as a whole; the bark pieces are fried in hot oil until they unroll (this is important to release the fragrance); then, temperature is quenched by adding other components, like tomatoes, onions or yoghurt. The cinnamon chunks may be removed before serving, but are more frequently kept as a fragrant decoration.
In most other countries, powdered cinnamon is preferred. The powder should be added shortly before serving, as it becomes slightly bitter after some time of cooking
The so-called cinnamon buds are the unripe fruits harvested shortly after the blossom; in appearance, they are similar to cloves. These buds are less aromatic than the bark; their odour is, however, rather interesting: mild, pure and sweet. to release their fragrance, they must be finely ground. Their usage as a spice has only regional importance in China and India (region Kutch in the union state Gujarat).
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