When we imagine cinnamon, we think of the sticks or the powder that we use in a kitchen but there will also be a Cinnamon tree, no? Of course it exists and now let's find out what characteristics it has. In truth, it is certainly not a recently discovered aromatic plant, many ancient peoples have used it for cooking also for its medicinal properties.
At the time the cinnamon was called cinnamon and it was considered an important spice in both eastern and western countries. It is no coincidence, even if today it is difficult to believe it, that it cost a lot, even compared to other interesting spices. The reason why we call it cinnamon in Italian is to be found in the Latin term "canna" which refers to the shape of thecinnamon tree when it came from the countries of origin.
Cinnamon tree: properties
There are two types of cinnamon, which we will then see in detail, but it is immediately important to specify that only one of the two has medicinal properties, cinnamon from Ceylon, also called Cinnamomum zeylanicum. The precious part is the bark from which the extracts are obtained.
From the leaves of this Cinnamon tree we can obtain essential oils including cinnamaldehyde and eugenol, which practically contain only eugenol (70-95%), so they cannot be used for therapeutic purposes. The same applies to the extracts of the roots which, although containing almost exclusively camphor (60%), are not useful for therapeutic purposes.
It is not frequent that one aromatic plant the branches and stems are used to obtain the substance that is then used in the kitchen or in herbal medicine, usually in fact we focus on the flowers and leaves. In the case ofcinnamon tree, instead, the younger branches are taken and the inner part of the bark is taken, or the plants that are a couple of years old are cut directly above the ground level.
One time cut off the branches, or the trunks, they must be dried. Over time, the outermost bark must be eliminated to obtain the famous cinnamon "sticks" that many of us are used to seeing and maybe even buying. They look a lot like big cigars, deep brown color, rough but not too much. The younger the branches are usually, the better the cinnamon you get. It is a question of age and as we age thecinnamon tree does not improve.
To best preserve i sticks made from its branches it is better to arrange them in glass containers and seal them, keeping them in a dark and not too hot place. Cinnamon can be preserved, and consumed, even as a powder but in this way the intensity of the aroma is lost.
Cinnamon tree in the kitchen
Cinnamon, used for cooking, becomes a precious ingredient not only because of its much loved flavor, but also because of its properties. It is in fact one astringent, stimulant and stomachic aromatic plant. In practice it helps digestion, and more.
In the Western culinary tradition, we often find cinnamon in sweet recipes, ice creams and even in drinks, wines and spirits including that they are so pleasantly flavored. If, on the other hand, we taste oriental cuisine, we will realize that in this case cinnamon also finds space in savory dishes, in particular it goes well with meat.
All over the world, cinnamon is a very common ingredient when it comes to prepare tea, herbal teas and infusions, and then there is the essential cinnamon oil that is obtained from the leaves of the cinnamon tree. It has no therapeutic use but it is not useless, it is in fact used instead of cloves.
Cinnamon tree: types
In the Lauraceae family we find two plants that produce cinnamon, the Cinnamomum zeylanicum and Cinnamomum cassia. Keep in mind that we are in the same family in which we find equally well-known aromatic plants such as laurel and camphor.
Both Zeylanicum and Cassia are tropical plants, which means, in practice, that they need a very hot and humid climate. If we are in an area with temperate weather, we cannot grow the cinnamon tree outdoors.
Cinnamomum zeylanicum is what we also call Ceylon cinnamon or cinnamon queen. This is the most precious and sought after cinnamon, the plant comes from the South Indies, in particular from Sri Lanka, Burma and Ceylon.
Cinnamomum cassia is typical of China and is in fact also known as China cinnamon or Chinese cinnamon. It is pleasant but not as good as the queen cinnamon, it is slightly more tart and less sweet. The difference between Cassia and Zeylanicum has always been known, it is not a modern discovery, even the ancients knew well that the second is much better than the first. We have the words of Theophrastus, Greek philosopher who lived between 371 and 287 BC, also author of some botanical treatises. In his Book of Plants he talks about both cinnamon trees and illustrates their differences.
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