There are so many spices that people associate with different seasons and since we're leaping into Fall let's have at it. Cinnamon, in my point of view, brings all the Fall spices together. You can't have any of them without it. But do you know where it comes from? Do you know some of the health benefits it offers? Or, are you only aware that it pairs amazingly with warm apple cider, pumpkin bread, vanilla and clove muffins or pear and ginger pancakes?
So let me tell you a little about cinnamon...
Cinnamon (/ˈsɪnəmən/ SIN-ə-mən) comes from a small evergreen tree that's part of the Lauraceae family. The spice is harvested from the inner bark of the tree. There are two commercial types of cinnamon. Ceylon cinnamon, also known as true cinnamon, is native to South Asia. It is $$$ compared to the second kind, which is called cassia tree cinnamon. This variety is the one you probably see in markets in the U.S. Although it's cheaper, cassia tree cinnamon has a stronger odor and flavor than Ceylon cinnamon. Aside from these two types of cinnamon trees used commercially, there are more than one hundred wild types of cinnamon trees in the world.
Cinnamon is harvested in many places, but Sri Lanka predominately produces much of the world's Ceylon cinnamon. Brazil, the Caribbean and India commercially grow this tree as well. Cassia cinnamon hails from Indonesia as its main source, although the tree is also grown in Vietnam, China and Burma.
When a cinnamon tree is about two years old, it is cut back to the size of a stump and covered with soil. It then grows like a bush with shoots that emerge the following year or so. These shoots are what are used to make your cinnamon sticks. The shoots are stripped of their bark and then the peels are laid out to dry in the sun. They then dry and naturally curl into quills, aka cinnamon sticks!
Did you know the length of your quills has its own grading system???
The Sri Lankan grading system, for example, divides the quills into four sizes:
•Alba, which is 0.2 inches or less in diameter
•Continental, which is around 0.6 inches
•Mexican, which is nearly 0.8 inches
•Hamburg, which is about 1.3 inches
Now that you know where it comes from, what's it good for?
Well, it's my favorite Fall spice. I love it! I love it in apple cinnamon tea which means I love it with all things apple. So, baked apples and apple pies. Put it in oatmeal which means you should put it in oatmeal cookies. Speaking of cookies that means snickerdoodles! But you don't have to just bake with it. You can make a cinnamon and 5 spice beef stew or cinnamon butternut squash soup or cinnamon lamb tagine. There are so many possibilities.
And yet there's more. Cinnamon has a number of health benefits. It can help lower blood sugar. It can help fight bacteria. It has even been found to help decrease inflammation.
So, if cinnamon was good enough for the Ancient Egyptians, the Romans and the Bible to use and mention numerous times then I'm sure we can continue its wonderful use in all its fabulousness today!!!