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Cinnamon
Why Eat It
Varieties
Availability
Shopping
Storage
Preparation
Nutrition Chart


Why Eat It

For centuries, people have been fascinated by cinnamon as a healing potential as well as its unique flavor. The use of cinnamon can be traced back to Egypt around 3000 B.C., where it was used as an embalming agent, to China around 2700 B.C., where it was used medicinally by herbalists. It was also mentioned in the Old Testament. Cinnamon has the distinction of being one of the first commodities traded on a regular basis from the East to the Mediterranean.

Cinnamon has been associated with the ability to prevent ulcers, destroy fungal infections, soothe indigestion, ward off urinary tract infections, and fight tooth decay and gum disease. The pharmaceutical industry currently uses cinnamon in toothpaste and mouthwash as a natural flavoring.

Varieties

Cinnamon is the dried inner bark of a tropical evergreen tree, of which there are about 100 different species, all with similar aromatic properties. The two most commonly available varieties are Ceylonese cinnamon and Chinese cinnamon. Chinese cinnamon, which is actually from the bark of the cassia tree, is not considered a true cinnamon (species Cinnamomum verum). Grown in Southern China, and other parts of Eastern Asia, cassia is a dark reddish color and stronger in flavor than its Ceylonese cousin (Cinnamomum zeylancium). Cassia is less expensive to process than true cinnamons and is the type of "cinnamon" most commonly sold in supermarkets--though it is sometimes blended with Ceylonese cinnamon.

Availability

Cinnamon is available all year long and can be purchased at supermarkets as well as specialty shops.

Shopping

Most cinnamon is sold in powdered form; however, it is also available in the form of sticks (scrolled portions of bark) and essential oil. Cinnamon sticks are sold in various lengths, though the most common supermarket cinnamon stick is about 3" long. You can also buy cassia buds, which are the buds of the cassia, or Chinese cinnamon, tree.

Storage

Cinnamon should be stored in a sealed container in a cool, dry, dark place. Avoid exposure to moisture and humidity. Cinnamon should smell of sweet spice; if it has no odor, chances are it's old and should be discarded.

Preparation

Use cinnamon sticks for flavoring poaching liquids or for steeping in milk for custards or custard sauces. Add sticks to cold liquid then bring to a simmer. If preparing a wine poaching liquid for fruit, cook the cinnamon sticks in the liquid along with the fruit. If using the cinnamon sticks to flavor milk for a custard, add it to the cold milk, bring to a simmer, then remove from the heat. Cover and let the milk steep with the cinnamon in it. If the sticks are very long and tightly wound, break them into pieces with your hands, then use the flat side of a knife to break it up so that more surfaces are exposed.

Ground cinnamon is used in baking and is generally combined with dry ingredients such as flour or sugar.

Nutrition Chart

Cinnamon/1 teaspoon

6
Total fat (g)
0.1
Saturated fat (g)
0
Monounsaturated fat (g)
0
Polyunsaturated fat (g)
0
Dietary fiber (g)
1.2
0.1
Carbohydrate (g)
1.8
Cholesterol (mg)
0
Sodium (mg)
0.6


Date Published: 04/20/2005
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