Cinnamon: The Ultimate Guide to Cooking with it
Cinnamon ( ) is a spice obtained from the inner bark of several trees from the genus Cinnamomum that is used in both sweet and savory foods. While Cinnamomum verum is sometimes considered to be “true cinnamon”, most cinnamon in international commerce is derived from related species, which are also referred to as “cassia” to distinguish them from “true cinnamon”. Cinnamon is the name for perhaps a dozen species of trees and the commercial spice products that some of them produce. All are members of the genus Cinnamomum in the family Lauraceae. Only a few of them are grown commercially for spice.
Let’s look at everything you need to know about this delicious and versatile spice.
In this post we'll cover:
- 1 Let’s Spice Things Up: All You Need to Know About Cinnamon
- 2 The Fascinating Etymology of Cinnamon
- 3 The Fascinating History of Cinnamon
- 4 Planting and Growing Cinnamon: From Coppicing to Propagation
- 5 The Production of Cinnamon: From Tree to Spice
- 6 Spice up your kitchen: Cooking with Cinnamon
- 7 Why Cinnamon is More Than Just a Spice: Its Health Benefits
- 8 Conclusion
Let’s Spice Things Up: All You Need to Know About Cinnamon
Cinnamon is a traditional spice that comes in various forms, including sticks and ground powder. Obtained from the inner bark of trees belonging to the genus Cinnamomum, cinnamon is mainly applied as an aromatic condiment and flavoring additive in sweet and savory dishes worldwide.
The True Cinnamon vs. Cassia
There are two types of cinnamon: true cinnamon and cassia. True cinnamon, also known as Ceylon cinnamon, is labeled as the “real” cinnamon and is obtained from the Cinnamomum verum tree species. Cassia, on the other hand, is obtained from the Cinnamomum cassia tree species and is widely used in the United States. Cassia is cheaper and hotter than true cinnamon, making it a popular choice for baking and cooking.
How to Purchase and Store Cinnamon
Cinnamon sticks can be purchased curled or straight, and ground cinnamon is also available. When purchasing cinnamon, make sure to check the label to ensure that it is legally labeled as cinnamon and not cassia. Cinnamon should be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place to maintain its flavor and aroma.
The Fascinating Etymology of Cinnamon
The word “cinnamon” ultimately derives from the ancient Hebrew word “qinnamon,” which means “spice.” The Hebrew word was later adopted by the Greek language as “kinnamomon,” and then by the Latin language as “cinnamomum.”
The Different Names for Cinnamon
Cinnamon is known by different names in different parts of the world. Some of the most common names for cinnamon include:
- Cinnamon bark
- Cinnamon powder
- Cinnamon sticks
The Cultivation and Production of Cinnamon
Cinnamon is produced from the inner bark of trees belonging to the Cinnamomum family. The trees are native to Sri Lanka, but they also grow in other parts of the world, including China, Vietnam, and Sichuan. The bark is harvested and then dried, and the dried bark is then ground into a powder or sold in the form of sticks.
The Expensive Price of Cinnamon
Cinnamon was once a highly prized spice that was worth its weight in gold. It was so valuable that traders kept its source a secret in order to maintain control over the supply. Today, cinnamon is still relatively expensive, but it is more widely available and is sold in many different countries around the world.
The Use of Cinnamon in Advertising
Cinnamon has been used in advertising for many years, and it is often used to promote products that are sweet or spicy. For example, cinnamon is often used in ads for cinnamon rolls, apple pie, and pumpkin spice lattes.
The Role of Cinnamon in Different Cultures
Cinnamon plays a significant role in many different cultures around the world. For example:
- In Chinese culture, cinnamon is often used in traditional medicine to treat a variety of ailments.
- In Japanese culture, cinnamon is often used in cooking and is a popular spice for making curry and masala.
- In Western culture, cinnamon is often used in baking and is a common ingredient in many different types of desserts.
The Fascinating History of Cinnamon
Cinnamon was often confused with cassia, another spice commonly used in cooking. Cassia was also highly prized and was commonly used in Chinese cooking. The two spices are related, but cinnamon is considered to be of higher quality and is more expensive. The Chinese named cinnamon “kwai,” and it was highly regarded for its medicinal properties.
The Mystical Properties of Cinnamon
Cinnamon was also regarded as having mystical properties, and it was believed to have healing powers. The spice was kept in temples and was used in religious ceremonies. The temple of Apollo in Greece had an inscription that read, “Cinnamon and cassia, fragrant spices, bring joy and health to men.”
Planting and Growing Cinnamon: From Coppicing to Propagation
- Cinnamon is a tropical tree that requires warm temperatures to grow, so make sure to choose a sunny location in your garden or nursery.
- Check the USDA hardiness zones to ensure that your location provides enough room for the tree to mature, which can reach up to 30 feet in height.
- Dig a hole twice the size of the root ball and amend the soil with organic matter before backfilling and pressing the soil gently to remove any air pockets.
Cultivating Cinnamon from Cuttings
- Cinnamon is commonly propagated through stem cuttings, which can be roughly 6-8 inches long and stripped of leaves on the lower half.
- Dip the cuttings in moist potting soil and place them in a warm, sunny location.
- Slowly water the cuttings and wait for roots to form before transplanting them outdoors.
Growing Cinnamon from Coppicing
- Cinnamon trees can also be propagated through coppicing, which involves cutting the stems down to the ground and allowing new shoots to replace them.
- This method is commonly used for Cinnamomum verum, also known as Ceylon cinnamon, which is considered a superior type of cinnamon with a milder flavor and aroma compared to Cassia cinnamon.
- Cinnamomum loureirii, also referred to as Saigon or Vietnamese cinnamon, is another common species sold in the market as premium cinnamon.
Watering and Pruning Cinnamon Trees
- Cinnamon trees require regular watering, especially during the growing season, to keep the soil moist but not waterlogged.
- Prune the trees to remove any dead or damaged branches and to promote new growth.
- Cinnamon trees can also be trained to grow as shrubs or kept as small trees through regular pruning.
Harvesting and Using Cinnamon
- Cinnamon is harvested by cutting the stems and removing the bark, which is then dried and sold in ground or stick form.
- True cinnamon, or Ceylon cinnamon, is commonly used in sweet dishes and desserts, while Cassia cinnamon is stronger and often used in savory dishes.
- Cinnamon provides numerous health benefits, including anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, and can be used in a variety of ways in cooking and baking.
The Production of Cinnamon: From Tree to Spice
Cinnamon is a spice that comes from the inner bark of trees belonging to the genus Cinnamomum. The trees are native to Sri Lanka and southern India, but they are also grown commercially in other parts of the world, including China, Burma, and the Caribbean.
Cultivation and Growing Techniques
Cinnamon trees can grow up to 60 feet tall, but they are usually cut down to a height of about 6-8 feet to make harvesting easier. The trees are generally grown through coppicing, a technique where the stems are cut down to the stump every few years, allowing new shoots to emerge.
Grading and Packaging
Cinnamon is usually sold in the form of sticks or ground into a powder. The sticks, also known as quills, are graded according to their size and the quality of their essential oils. The highest grade of cinnamon is known as “true cinnamon quillings,” which are characterized by their smooth texture, light color, and sweet aroma. Cinnamon is often packaged and shared as a gift, and it is also commonly used as a flavoring in coffee, baked goods, and other products.
Spice up your kitchen: Cooking with Cinnamon
- Cinnamon is a staple spice in many dishes around the world, both sweet and savoury.
- Cinnamon sticks are typically used for infusing flavour into liquids, while ground cinnamon is used for baking and cooking.
- Cinnamon plays a big role in many ancient dishes, including curries, tagines, and marinades.
- Cinnamon is also a popular choice for sweet dishes, such as chocolate, European pastries, and South Asian desserts.
- Depending on the recipe, cinnamon can be added in different forms: ground, sticks, or strips of bark.
- Cinnamon is a natural sweetener and can be used to add flavour to dishes without adding sugar.
- Cinnamon is also a good spice to use when cooking meat, as it adds a rich, spicy flavour.
- When cooking with cinnamon, be careful not to use too much, as it can easily overpower other flavours.
- Cinnamon is also fairly delicate and needs to be handled carefully to preserve its flavour.
Cinnamon and Cassia
- Despite being called “cinnamon”, cassia is a different type of spice than true cinnamon.
- Cassia is sold more commonly than true cinnamon, but it is important to read the label carefully to ensure you are getting the type of cinnamon you need.
- Cassia is a better choice for dishes that require a strong, spicy flavour, while true cinnamon is better for delicate dishes that require a sweet flavour.
- British and North American recipes typically call for cassia, while South Asian recipes typically call for true cinnamon.
Why Cinnamon is More Than Just a Spice: Its Health Benefits
Cinnamon has been found to have a number of health benefits, including the ability to lower blood sugar levels and improve heart health. Research has shown that cinnamon can help to prevent damage to the heart and protect against heart attack. This is due to the compounds found in cinnamon that are able to block certain enzymes in the body that cause inflammation and damage to the heart.
Improving Brain Function and Preventing Neurodegenerative Diseases
Cinnamon has also been found to have positive effects on brain function and may even help to prevent neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. This is because cinnamon contains compounds that are able to protect neurons in the brain from damage and improve overall brain function.
Increasing Insulin Sensitivity and Helping with Type 2 Diabetes
Cinnamon has been found to be helpful for people with type 2 diabetes as it can increase insulin sensitivity and lower blood sugar levels. This is due to the compounds found in cinnamon that are able to mimic the action of insulin in the body and improve the overall function of insulin.
Rich in Antioxidants and Anti-Inflammatory Compounds
Cinnamon is also rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, which can help to protect the body from damage caused by free radicals and inflammation. This is important for overall health and may help to prevent a number of chronic diseases.
Adding Cinnamon to Your Diet
There are a number of ways to add cinnamon to your diet, including:
- Sprinkling cinnamon on oatmeal or yogurt
- Adding cinnamon to coffee or tea
- Using cinnamon as a substitute for sugar in recipes
- Adding cinnamon to smoothies or protein shakes
Cinnamon is a popular spice that is recognized around the world as a staple in many different types of food. Its reputation as a simple and small spice is blown away by the range of potential health benefits it contains. It’s pretty amazing that something so common and synonymous with sugar and sweets is actually essential to our body’s function. So, the next time you’re slicing up an apple or putting cinnamon in your coffee, remember the importance of this spice and the potential health benefits it may bring.
So there you have it, cinnamon is a spice made from the bark of a tree and it’s used in almost every cuisine in the world.
It’s good for your health, and you should definitely have some in your pantry. So don’t be afraid to experiment with it and enjoy the deliciousness that is cinnamon!
Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.