This time I want to introduce you to another very famous and known specialty crop, which is cinnamon. Although this spice doesn`t originate from Indonesian Islands in the ancient times – records say it came from the Red Sea to the trading ports in Egypt. However, it got a special importance in the Middle Ages, when trade ways brought it to Europe. Let us see further here about this interesting plant.
Cinnamon – Origins of the name
The name “cassia”, first recorded in late Old English from Latin and ultimately derives from Hebrew q’tsīʿāh, a form of the verb qātsaʿ, “to strip off bark”. This is indeed, how we “harvest” the bark from the trees. Early Modern English also used the names canel and canella, similar to the current names of cinnamon in several other European languages. They derived from the Latin word cannella, a diminutive of canna, which means “tube”. In fact, this is the way the bark curls up as it dries.
How the spice was introduced to Europe
In the Middle Ages Indonesian rafts transported cinnamon directly from the Moluccas to East Africa, where local traders then carried it north to Alexandria in Egypt. Venetian traders from Italy held a monopoly on the spice trade in Europe, distributing cinnamon from Alexandria. The disruption of this trade by the rise of other Mediterranean powers, such as the Mamluk sultans and the Ottoman Empire, was one of many factors that led Europeans to search more widely for other routes to Asia.
Cinnamon (Cinnamomum burmannii, also known as Indonesian cinnamon, Padang cassia, Batavia cassia or korintje)
This aromatic spice is well known in Europe and in the Western Hemisphere as its typical flavor sweetens a lot of dishes and desserts when added as fine grinded powder (see Pic 1). You may know apple cakes, pan cakes, milk rice and a kind from your childhood as very tasty cinnamon dishes. Also, using the rolls as a decorative piece in flower bouquets or in house decorations for Christmas in winter may give you some inspirations of how we integrate this crop in our daily lives. I won`t forget its special flavor, when baked, cooked or implemented in room odors and candles! But how is this interesting spice grown and yielded?
Cultivation & Harvest
Cinnamomum burmanii is an evergreen tree about getting 7 m high with an aromatic bark. Growing in wet, tropical climates, it is native in Southeast Asia and Indonesia – normally found in West Sumatra and western Jambi province, with the Kerinci region being especially known as the center of production of quality, high essential-oil crops. After 5 to 7 years the tree is grown up. By then it is cut, so that the bark can be peeled totally from the tree stem. The bark is yielded in smaller pieces, that are simply dried in the intense, tropical sun. As a result, the tranches roll up and create these cinnamon rolls, we recognize very well in the shops. Grinding the cinnamon rolls produces the cinnamon fine powder, which we use in the kitchen for flavoring soups, meals and desserts. Pic 2 & 3 show, how a bark piece is cut out of the cinnamon tree (this time from a vital tree just for demonstration purpose).
Cinnamon ingredients and national cuisines
Ground cinnamon is composed of around 11% water, 81% carbohydrates (including 53% dietary fiber), 4% protein, and 1% fat. In a 100 g reference amount, ground cinnamon is a rich source of calcium (100% of the Daily Value, DV), iron (64% DV), and vitamin K (30% DV). As said, Cinnamon bark is used as a spice. It is principally employed in cookery as a condiment and flavoring material used in the preparation of chocolate, especially in Mexico. Cinnamon is often used in savory dishes of chicken and lamb. In the United States, cinnamon and sugar are often used to flavor cereals, bread-based dishes, such as toast, and fruits, especially apples; a cinnamon-sugar mixture is sold separately for such purposes. It is also used in Turkish cuisine for both sweet and savory dishes. Cinnamon can also be used in pickling and Christmas drinks such as eggnog. Cinnamon powder has long been an important spice in enhancing the flavor of Persian cuisine, used in a variety of thick soups, drinks and sweets. It is used as a flavoring in some alcoholic beverages, such as cinnamon-flavored whiskey in the United States, and rakomelo, a cinnamon brandy popular in parts of Greece.
Closing words about cinnamon flavor, aroma and taste
The flavor of cinnamon – due to an aromatic essential oil, that makes up 0.5 to 1% of its composition. This essential oil can be prepared by roughly pounding the bark, macerating it in sea water, and then quickly distilling the whole. It is of a golden-yellow color, with the characteristic odor of cinnamon and a very hot aromatic taste. The pungent taste and scent come from cinnamaldehyde (about 90% of the essential oil from the bark) and, by reaction with oxygen as it ages, it darkens in color and forms resinous compounds. Note, uses of cinnamon is various and not limited to the above mentioned! Try it yourself and you will see it fits to much more than you can imagine…
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A hearty welcome to my private Blog! It is my pleasure to introduce you to my articles about nature as I explore and experience in my environment. I studied agriculture and biology so the science is my background to understand nature from the roots. Now I am exploring natural habitats from the sensual side when traveling, wandering and working in my garden. Be inspired by these insights I share with you here!!!