-Cinnamon: an essential
ingredient of the spicy Kerala cooking.
Cinnamon is the dried inner stem bark
of Cinnamomum Verum. Cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum} is a bushy evergreen
tree 10-15 m tall, belonging to the family Lauraceae.It is grown
in Kerala and other tropical regions of the world including Sri
Lanka. The bark is widely used as a spice.
The leaves are ovate-oblong in shape, 7-18 cm long.They are leathery
and shining green on upper surface when mature. The flowers have
a greenish colour and a rather disagreeable odour. The fruit is
a dark purple one seeded berry containing a single seed.
The spice is light brown in colour and has a delicately fragrant
aroma and warm, sweet flavour. It is lighter in colour and milder
in flavour than the other related species. Cinnamon was once more
valuable than gold and has been associated with ancient rituals
of sacrifice or pleasure.
Origin and Distribution
It originated in the central hills of Sri Lanka. In India, it is
widely grown in one or two locations in Kerala. Cinnamon is a hardy
plant and is cultivated in Sri Lanka under varying conditions ranging
from semi dried to wet zone conditions. It prefers shelter and moderate
rainfalls without extremes in temperature. The ideal temperature
for growing cinnamon is between 20-30 degree C and rainfall between
1250 to 2500 mm. Cinnamomum verum is mostly cultivated in Sri Lanka,
Malagasy Republic and Seychelles. They are cultivated as low bushes
to ease the harvesting process Eight to ten lateral branches grow
on each bush and after three years they are harvested.
Cinnamon bark is a popular spice with a delicate fragrance
and a warm agreeable taste. . The brown colored bark is easily chewable
It is used in the form of small pieces or powder . It gives a dish
a very rich flavor Cinnamon is an essential ingredient of the very
different and spicy Kerala cooking. It is used to flavour a variety
of foods, from confections to curries; The stick cinnamon is added
whole to casseroles, rice dishes, mulled wines and punches, and
to syrups for poaching fruit. The chips are also used in tea infusions
or spiced cider blends. Ground cinnamon is used in baked goods like
cakes, pastries and biscuits. Cinnamon leaf oil is used in processed
meats, condiments and also in bakery items. It is being largely
used in the preparation of some kinds of desserts, chocolate and
spicy candies and liqueurs. In the Middle East, it is often used
in savory dishes of chicken and lamb.
In America, cinnamon and sugar are often used to flavor cereals
and fruits, especially apples. It can also be used in pickling.
Cinnamon is high in antioxidant activity . The essential oil of
cinnamon also has antimicrobial properties . This property may allow
cinnamon to extend the shelf life of foods.
The commercial products of cinnamon are quills, quillings, featherings,
chips, cinnamon bark oil and cinnamon leaf oil. . The bark is usually
stored in the shape of a roll or quill, to ensure its aroma is retained.
The dry quills or bark are packed in bundles for trade. ‘Quills’
are scraped peel of the inner bark of the mature cinnamon shoots,
joined together with overlapping tubes, the hollow of which has
been filled with smaller pieces of cinnamon peels which is dried
first in the sun and thereafter in the shade. ‘Quillings’
are broken pieces and splits of all grades of cinnamon quills. ‘Featherings’
are feather like pieces of inner bark consisting of shavings and
small pieces of bark left over. Cinnamon ‘chips’ are
rough unpeelable barks scraped off from the thicker stems. Cinnamon
leaf and bark oil are obtained by distilling the leaf and bark separately.
The cinnamon bark oil has anti-fungal properties and cinnamon leaf
oil is widely used in perfumery and cosmetics .It is also used in
flavouring confectionary, liquors and pharmaceuticals.
In medicine it acts like other volatile oils and once had
a reputation as a cure for colds. Cinnamon is a stimulant, astringent
and carminative, used as an antidote for diarrhoea and other problems
of the digestive system . It has astringent; stimulant and carminative
properties and can check nausea and vomiting. It is also found to
help diabetics in digestion of sugar.