While on a recent cruise I had the opportunity to visit the tiny Caribbean Island of Grenada which among other things is a reliable source of many spices, including cinnamon.
Cinnamon has a rich history dating back 5,000 years when Arabs controlled the spice trade bringing cinnamon from what was known then as the Spice Islands, to sell in Nineveh, Babylon, Egypt and Rome. It was used by the Egyptians as an ingredient in their embalming fluids and the Romans used it as a love potion. Even Moses used it in a holy oil to anoint the ark of the covenant.
Harvesting cinnamon is very labor intensive, taking up to three years after a tree is planted before the first harvest can be completed.Harvesting is a long process, it begins by growing the tree for two years and then coppicing it. Coppicing is a process whereby the tree is cut off at the ground level and shoots are allowed to grow from the main branch.
At harvest time the shoots are cut and the leaves and twigs are removed with the rough outer bark. The shoots are then beaten to soften the tissues of the inner bark and make it easier to peel away in a complete strip. Once peeled, the bark is placed in overlapping, extended layers then rolled to form long canes or quills that are sun-dried. As the quills dry, the bark curls and becomes paper-like. These long canes are later cut into cinnamon sticks. Flakes left over from this process, called featherings are sold to make into ground cinnamon powder or to be distilled into cinnamon oil. Cinnamon trees can yield productive bark for about 45 years, after which they are replaced with a new seedling.
Today much of North America’s cinnamon comes from Southeast Asia and the closely related cassia tree. Cassia is considered slightly inferior in taste to zeylanicum or true cinnamon that is a softer color with a milder, sweeter flavor. Cassia cinnamon is normally a darker reddish brown color and has a stronger, somewhat bittersweet flavor. Cassia cinnamon is also less expensive than zeylanicum cinnamon. Most cinnamon in the United States does not state its origin.
Cinnamon with its woody, mild yet exotic flavor is arguably the most popular spice in the world. Aside from its many uses in baking and cooking, it also provides a wonderful aroma to freshen the house. Just boil 5 cups of water with a teaspoon of added cinnamon, then let it simmer on the stove to enjoy the smell of a spice that has intoxicated people for over five millennia!
Gary has been a writer/ photographer for over 20 years, specializing in nature, landscapes and studying native cultures. Besides visiting most of the United States, he has traveled to such places as Egypt, the Canary Islands, much of the Caribbean. He has studied the Mayan Cultures in Central America and the Australian Aboriginal way of life.Photography has given him the opportunity to observe life in many different parts of the world!
He has published several books about the various cultures he has observed.
For more information and a link to his hardcover and Ebooks, and contact information: please check his website, http://www.journeysthrulife.com.
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