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Ceylon Cinnamon Care: How To Grow A True Cinnamon Tree

By Amy Grant

True cinnamon (Ceylon cinnamon) is derived from Cinnamomum zeylanicum plants generally grown in Sri Lanka. Is it possible to grow a true cinnamon tree? Click here to find out how to grow cinnamon trees and other Ceylon cinnamon care.

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Cinnamon Plant Profile

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Where does cinnamon come from? Most well-equipped cooks have a jar of the fragrant powder or raw sticks in the pantry, and many people use cinnamon sticks for cooking and crafts. If you've ever tried to break a cinnamon stick in half, and noticed how hard it is, you've had a peek at the dried bark of the cinnamon tree. Although cinnamon plants hail from the tropics, you can grow them at home for years with the right care.


Cinnamon is a spice that is used by various cuisines of the world. Both western and oriental cuisine make generous use of this wonder spice. Cinnamon comes in mainly two varieties: Ceylon and the Chinese cinnamon. The Ceylon variety as this has a sweeter taste and stronger aroma. For PCOS, it is recommended to use Ceylon cinnamon.

Here are a few tips to spice up your food with cinnamon:

Cinnamon tea: Start your morning with a cup of cinnamon tea. You could choose the kind of tea as per your taste. Cinnamon can be added to both milk tea and black tea. Try to have it without sugar as it could reduce the effectiveness of cinnamon.

Cinnamon powder: Sprinkle some cinnamon powder on your yoghurt, smoothies and shakes. Cinnamon is a versatile spice that adds flavour to everything from curries to desserts. You can sprinkle some cinnamon powder in your smoothies and shakes and have a cool and refreshing drink after a workout session.

Seasoning your fruit salad with cinnamon is also a good way to include this spice in your daily diet. The sweet aroma of cinnamon will complement the flavours of different fruit. If you wish to sweeten your salad, add honey instead of sugar to cope with the demands of PCOS.

Chewing cinnamon sticks: Try chewing some cinnamon sticks after your meal. Indian households have always been a huge fan of cinnamon. It is easy to find a container full of this aromatic stick in every Indian kitchen. The sweet and hot contrasting flavour of cinnamon is quite palatable. As an added benefit, cinnamon also aids in digestion and can reduce the fullness of the stomach.

Honey cinnamon and lemon water: Drinking a concoction of lemon, cinnamon and honey in boiling water can help you in losing weight and reduce the effects of PCOS. To make this beneficial drink, boil a glass of water with a stick of cinnamon. Then add a spoon full of honey and a few drops of lemon. It is advisable to have this drink on an empty stomach in the morning.

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Will the Real Cinnamon Please Stand Up?

Imagine my surprise a few years back to discover that the cinnamon I'd been sprinkling on toast and cookies for years wasn't the real deal! Both cinnamons are derived from tree bark, but "true cinnamon" or Ceylon Cinnamon is a different species than the cinnamon most of us know in the U.S. I'm glad I found out about the real deal cinnamon, as it's another wonderful choice for baking and cooking!

Both Cassia and Ceylon cinnamon are harvested from evergreen trees in the Cinnamomum genus. Cassia cinnamon (C. cassia) is by far the most popular in the U.S., while Ceylon cinnamon (C. zeylanicum) is the commonly used variety in many other countries.

Harvest involves pruning, rather than cutting down the trees. Trees are coppiced, or pruned nearly to the ground, encouraging the formation of many small shoots. Cinnamon trees would naturally grow to 30 feet or more in height, but under cultivation they resemble large bushes. Properly tended cinnamon trees are a long-lived resource and a good source of income for their growers, although stripping and drying the bark is labor-intensive.

Cinnamons can be purchased in several forms. Cinnamon sticks generally have the rough outer bark removed, although I do have a basket of decorative, aromatic, foot-long sticks of Cassia bark. Many of us have stirred a cup of mulled cider with a Cassia cinnamon stick. Sticks of Ceylon cinnamon look rather different the inner bark is thinner, softer, and lighter in color. Rather than the sturdy, hollow curl of a Cassia stick, Ceylon cinnamon sticks are filled inside like a cigar.

Ground cinnamon is most commonly found, as it's easy to incorporate in foods or even in festive cinnamon-applesauce ornaments. Older, thicker cinnamon bark may have even more flavor but doesn't roll nicely into sticks when cut. Along with leftovers from the cinnamon quilling process, these pieces are either ground or sold as cinnamon chunks. Try adding a few bits to your coffee filter basket, teacup, or potpourri. Cinnamon oil is extracted from both the leaves and from the bark to be used in many products, recipies, and craft projects. Handle it with care, as undiluted cinnamon oil can burn and even blister your skin. I recently came across a source for Cassia buds, dried unopened flowers said to have a lovely cinnamon flavor with sweet floral overtones.

Cinnamons from different regions may have different flavors and intensities, depending on the cinnamon oil they contain. Korintje Cassia is the cinnamon most likely found on your grocery store shelf, while the more intense Chinese and high grade Vietnamese Cassia cinnamons usually must be bought at a specialty store. Most Ceylon cinnamon, not surprisingly, comes from Sri Lanka, known until 1972 as Ceylon.

While Cassia cinnamon is most commonly used in the US, Ceylon cinnamon is the one you'll find in Mexican cooking and European baking. It adds a wonderful touch to hot cocoa or tea. What it lacks in boldness, it makes up for in delicate floral and citrus overtones. Chocolate and Ceylon cinnamon is a magical combination. For a brownie with Tex-Mex appeal, add Kahlua™ instead of water to your favorite packaged mix, then stir in a half teaspoon of Ceylon cinnamon. I've also dusted Kahlua™ truffles with a beautiful buff coat of Ceylon cinnamon.

Ceylon cinnamon is a necessary ingredient in Chinese 5 spice, a wonderful finishing ingredient for garlicky stir fry dishes. Indian curries often include cinnamon to add a sweetness that deepens the flavor of the other spices. My Thanksgiving Turkey Mole´ dish wouldn't be the same without the cinnamon in the Mexican chocolate. I like to use Ceylon cinnamon together with cumin. When cooking a pot of dried lima beans and onions with ham hocks or a smoked turkey leg, I add a teaspoon of cinnamon and two teaspoons of ground cumin. Cincinnati style chili is distinctive in its use of cinnamon, although sources disagree about which variety of cinnamon to use.

While Cassia cinnamon will always be my first love, I've got a definite flirtation going on with its cousin, the "true" cinnamon from Ceylon. Here in the U.S., if you want the aroma and flavor of Grandma's kitchen, Cassia cinnamon is the one you want. But if you want to add a rich and delicate flavor to baked goods or ethnic cuisine, add Ceylon cinnamon to your spice cabinet!

Jill's Chili Seasoning Mix
3 tablespoons dried mexican oregano
2 tablespoons dried epazote
1 tablespoon dried cilantro
2 tablespoons ground black pepper
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons ground Ceylon cinnamon
2 tablespoons garlic powder
A mix of peppers:
1 tablespoon ground guajillo chili
2 tablespoon ground ancho chili
1 tablespoon ground cayenne or arbol chili
1 tablespoon crushed aleppo chili
2 tablespoons crushed/powdered jalopeño chili
2 tablespoons dried minced bell peppers

This quantity is sufficient for a full 8-quart pot of bean and meat chili.
It makes a nice gift in a 12-ounce jar and is especially attractive
if you layer the ingredients individually in the jar.

My thanks to Penzeys, the herb and spice sellers whose catalog first taught me about the different types of cinnamon. All the ingredients in the above chili seasoning mix can be found at www.Penzeys.com. (My only affiliation with them is as a happy customer.)

For additional information about Ceylon cinnamon, take a look at the following sites:

Harvesting Ceylon cinnamon, described by Science2day.info

Article on Cinnamon varieties and flavors included in a commercial site for cooks. (I have no customer experience with this site)

www.ceylon-cinnamon.com, an informative commercial site (I have no customer experience with them.)

Photos by Jill M. Nicolaus.

For additional caption information, move your mouse over the images.


Harvesting/Storage:

**Your first harvest of the bark should be after the second year of planting. You could even wait until year 3 if you want. You can then harvest every 2 years or so after that.

**There are two different types of bark on your cinnamon tree that you can harvest: young whips and mature wood.

**For harvesting young whips, cut the whips into 3-inch segments. Score the bark lengthwise from end to end, cutting just deep enough to loosen the bark. Peel off the bark, which will naturally curl. Dry in an open, airy, warm spot such as on a kitchen counter. For a thicker, compact stick, layer the bark pieces inside one another before drying. Once dried, the sticks can be shaved for the spice or used in a mulling mix.

**For harvesting the bark of mature wood, cut stems into 3-inch segments. Make a lengthwise slice halfway into the stem, but do not go all the way through. The bark will not peel as easily as it does from a younger stem. Instead, scrape out the core and pithy inner lining, then allow the remaining bark to dry completely. You can layer several pieces of bark together to produce a thicker stick called a quill.

**Check out this youtube clip of a man harvesting the bark of mature wood: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-w_CCI79tr4

**If you are having trouble peeling the bark, you can put about two inches of warm water into a plastic tub and soak the peeled shoots. This will help loosen the inner bark and make it easier to peel away.

**Harvesting cinnamon bark requires that you cut the branches or stems from the plant itself. Score the bark without cutting all the way through the bark. Once you have done this a time or two you will know exactly how deep to go to loosen the cinnamon bark. The interior parts of the bark (the center) is inedible.

**Cinnamon should be stored in a cool, dry place. Date the containers so that older stock will be used first. Store them off the floor and away from outside walls to minimize the chance of dampness. Keep your spice container tightly closed after each use, because prolonged exposure to the air will also cause some loss of flavor and aroma.

Well, there you have it. Complete information on everything that I could find out about Cinnamon. Click here for Part One and here for the introduction to my Spice Series. Again, if you have any comments, questions, or extra information for me, please feel free to post in the comment section below!


Other uses for cinnamon

Cinnamon also has some amazing health benefits for us so it's great to have on hand and best of all, I always find it at the dollar store! Check out these 13 Proven health benefits of cinnamon! from Dr Axe and these 9 Things you didn't know cinnamon could do from Readers Digest.

If your dollar store doesn't carry it or you just use a whole lot, you can get the 'restaurant sized' jar of it here for about $5. (cheapest I've found it online) At that price and with these uses, what's not to love about cinnamon?

Oh, and don't worry about buying 'true' cinnamon, it makes no difference at all for these uses. Either one will work just fine.

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Watch the video: What Cinnamon Does To Your Body If You Have Type 2 Diabetes