Cinnamon – Bark of Paradise

Cinnamon – of mysterious and ancient origin – has been perfuming and flavouring food from the Mediterranea coast to China for three to four thousand years.  Cinnamon is a spice from the inner bark of the several tree species from the genus Cinnamomum.    Commerically there are two types of cinnamon, Cinnamomum verum or “true cinnamon” originally from Sri Lanka and Cinnamomum cassia or “cassia” from china.  99% of all cinnamon produced in the world comes from 4 countries China, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Vietnam .

I really don't think I need buns of steel. I'd be happy with buns of cinnamon. ~ Ellen DeGeneres

Today, as in the past, the best Cinnamon continues to comes from Sri Lanka.  During the rainy season, between May and October, cinnamon strippers, naked to the waist and armed with a hatchet can be seen carrying bundles of branches from the cinnamon gardens.  Watching them work is an experience in time travel, the tools and techniques are the same as they where 2000 thousand years ago.  The thick outer bark is removed and discarded and the thinner, fragrant inner bark is exposed and then collected.

In the west, this spice is no loner as popular as it was in the middle ages.  It is all too often restricted to the odd sweet dessert, such as rice pudding or apple cakes.  But the cuisine of the rest of the world tends to embrace the savoy use of cinnamon.  Moroccan cooks use it in their tajines, Indians in many of their Marsala’s to make curries and in China it is one of the ingredients making up their famous “five spice”.

I highly recommend throwing a stick of cinnamon into your next savoury stew to see how it can transform the flavour of any dish.