Cinnamomum verum Presl.
syn. C.zeylanicum Blume.
Family : Lauraceae
Other names: Chili; pepperDescription
a bushy evergreen tree of the laurel family (Lauraceae) is native
to Sri Lanka (Ceylon), the neighbouring Malabar Coast of India,
and Myanmar (Burma) and also cultivated in South America and the
West Indies for the spice consisting of its dried inner bark. The
spice is light brown in colour and has a delicately fragrant aroma
and warm, sweet flavour. It is lighter in colour and milder in flavour
than the other related species.
Cinnamon was once more valuable than
gold and has been associated with ancient rituals of sacrifice or
pleasure. In Egypt, it was sought for embalming and witchcraft;
in medieval Europe for religious rites and as flavouring. References
to cinnamon are plenty throughout the Old Testament in the Bible.
Later it was the most profitable spice in the Dutch East India Company
Cinnamon is a bushy evergreen tree
(6-8 m tall), cultivated as low bushes to ease the harvesting process.
The leaves are long (10-18 cm), leathery and shining green on upper
surface when mature. The flowers have a fetid, disagreeable smell.
The fruit is a dark purple, one-seeded berry. It prefers shelter
and moderate rainfall without extremes in temperature. Eight to
ten lateral branches grow on each bush and after three years they
are harvested. The Sri Lankan farmer harvests his main crop in the
wet season, cutting the shoots close to the ground. In processing,
the shoots are first scraped with a semicircular blade, then rubbed
with a brass rid to loosen the bark, which is split with a knife
and peeled. The peels are telescoped one into another forming a
quill about 107 cm (42 inches) long and filled with trimming of
the same quality bark to maintain the cylindrical shape. After four
or five days of drying, the quills are rolled on a board to tighten
the filling and then placed in subdued sunlight for further drying.
Finally, they are bleached with sulphur dioxide and sorted into
Aroma and flavour
Cinnamon contains from 0.5 to 1 present
essential oil, the principal component of which is cinnamic aldehyde
(about 60%). Other components are eugenol, eugenol acetate, and
small amounts of aldehydes, ketones, alcohols, esters and terpenes.
The oil is distilled from fragments for use in food, liqueur, perfume
and drugs. The aldehyde can also be synthesized. Cinnamon leaf oil
is unique in that it contains eugenol as its major constituent (70-90%).
Culinary, medicinal and other
In modern times, cinnamon is used
to flavour a variety of foods, from confections to curries; in Europe
and the USA it is especially popular in bakery goods. The stick
cinnamon is added whole to casseroles, rice dishes, mulled wines
and punches, and to syrups for poaching fruit. The chips are also
used in tea infusions or spiced cider blends. Ground cinnamon is
used in baked goods like cakes, pasteries and biscuits. Cinnamon
leaf oil is used in processed meats, condiments and also in bakery
items. Oil from the bark is used in the manufacture of perfume.
The cinnamic aldehyde and/or eugenol present are both antifungal
agents. Cinnamon is a stimulant, astringent and carminative, used
as an antidote for diarrhoea and stomach upsets.