Sri Lankan Cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) is a native plant of Sri Lanka and comes from the bark of an evergreen tree in the laurel family. The tree can grow to great heights, but in cultivation it is kept as a bush. On drying the inner bark curls naturally and so it is usually stored as quills to retain flavour, but it is also available as a powder.
Prized by the Ancient Egyptians, who first imported it about 2,000 BC, Cinnamon was considered to be more precious than gold and was used in embalming. In Ancient Rome it was also important and very expensive and the Emperor Nero burned a year’s supply on his wife’s funeral pyre as proof of his devotion to her. It was believed in the ancient world to cure snakebites, freckles, the common cold and kidney problems.
The foodie bit
Cinnamon is used extensively in cooking and has a warming sweetness which may have inspired song writer and singer Neil Young to write the song ‘Cinnamon Girl’.
Cinnamon is used in savoury as well as sweet dishes all over the world, for example the Scandinavians use it in baking, in the Middle East it is used in meat dishes and also in Mexico, particularly with chocolate.
- Baking – in cakes, doughnuts and breads e.g. cinnamon buns and tea loaf.
- Puddings – in rice pudding, chocolate and fruit desserts, including poached fruit dishes.
- Beverages – cinnamon tea, hot cocoa, coffee and smoothies such as our Apple and Cinnamon Smoothie recipe.
- Stews and sauces – with fish and meat in the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent e.g. in Sri Lankan spiced dishes such as our Beetroot Curry with Cinnamon.
- Spice mixes – such as garam masala in South Asia and Mixed Spice in Britain.
- Preservative – used with garlic to preserve fish and meat.
The health bit
Sri Lankan Cinnamon (also known as True Cinnamon) is believed to have the following benefits :
- Antimicrobial and can restrain the growth of fungi and yeast and so potentially useful in dealing with allergies.
- Helpful in maintaining healthy blood sugar levels.
- Helps alertness.
- Good source of manganese, important in building healthy bones and metabolising fats and carbohydrates, and contains iron and calcium.
- May help to lower cholesterol.
- Helps in digesting fruit and dairy products.