How Cinnamon Is Grown
Cinnamon is native to Sri Lanka, and, originally, it was the only place where the spice was grown. It is actually the bark of the laurel tree. There are a few varieties of the tree that produces cinnamon. The C. Zeylanicum is the “original” cinnamon tree of antiquity, but today cinnamon is grown more commonly from the C. Cassia tree. Today, cinnamon is still grown in Sri Lanka, but is also cultivated in India, Sumatra, Java, Brazil, Vietnam, The West Indies, Egypt, Zanzibar, and Madagascar.
Growing cinnamon is not an easy task. The tree must be grown for two years, after which it is cut down. The next year, little shoots appear. These shoots are stripped of their thin inner bark. The bark is dried and the outcome is cinnamon! Cinnamon sticks are curled up the way they are because this is the natural way the bark dries after being stripped from the tree.
Many plantations keep the trees to a small bush size. Nevertheless, the Laurel tree can grow up to 65 feet. The stems are cut back on a continuous basis so new stems will grow and more bark can be cut. When cut, the inner lining and outer bark are scraped off and the rest is left to dry. It eventually curls into what is called quills, and in true cinnamon, these quills are rolled together for the final product.
Cinnamon from the Cinnamomum zeylanicum tree is thought to be superior. It is easier to grind into powder and has a light sweet flavor. Most of the cinnamon found in the grocery store today probably was grown from the Cinnamomum cassia tree. While it is difficult to tell the difference in the ground version of the spice, the strips or quills of the “true” cinnamon will be layered while the Cassia cinnamon is one thick piece.
Cinnamon quills can be stored for long periods (hundreds of years in the right conditions). Ground cinnamon will lose its flavor over time.
Many people have considered growing cinnamon in their own gardens. However, the laurel is a tropical evergreen tree and needs a low altitude with a moist, hot, tropical climate in order to thrive.
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