From its aroma to its flavor, cinnamon has distinct qualities that make it unique from many other herbs. What is it used for? Why can it be good for your health? How is cinnamon grown? If you are surrounded with these questions, keep on reading the rest of this post and learn more about cinnamon.
History of Cinnamon
Cinnamon is derived from the bark of a tree that belongs to the Cinnamomum genus. From the outer bark of the tree, it is shove. After this, the inner bark will be revealed. This is dried and eventually forms quills, which become the cinnamon that most of us use in the kitchen. The tree comes with oblong-shaped leaves, which are dark green on the top and has a lighter shade underneath. It also has yellow-white flower, which usually comes with a foul smell. Its specific appearance, however, can vary depending on its specific variety.
Real cinnamon is believed to be native in Sri Lanka, which is formerly known as Ceylon. It is believed that since the 2000 BC, cinnamon is already used in Egypt, which is then known for its medicinal value more than an aromatic spice. It was used as an agent for perfuming in embalming. Also, cinnamon appeared in the Old Testament where it was used as an oil for anointing.
During the Middle Ages, cinnamon became popular in Europe amongst people from the elite society. It was transported by the Arabs through a cumbersome process, which basically explains its expensive price during such time.
Today, cinnamon is available all over the world at a price that is easy to afford for most of us. However, it should be pointed out that the cinnamon that we know today is actually not the one in its purest state. Rather, it is a spice known as Cassia, which exhibits the same flavor and aroma.
Popular Types of Cinnamon
It is believed that there are more than a hundred varieties of cinnamon. However, for commercial purposes, there are only four that are popular:
Health Benefits of Cinnamon
Since the ancient times, cinnamon has a positive reputation because of its positive impact for the body. The following are some of the health benefits that made cinnamon popular:
- Source of Antioxidants: Several studies in the past have ranked cinnamon as the best amongst different herbs when it comes to antioxidants. This makes it excellent in the prevention of cellular damage that can be caused by antioxidants. With this, there is no wonder why it is an excellent herb for anti-aging.
- Has Anti-inflammatory Compounds: Cinnamon has also gained reputation as being excellent when it comes to combating inflammation. Because of this, it is believed to be excellent for the prevention of cardiovascular diseases, as well as stroke. It minimizes swelling, which is also why it is often used for pain management.
- Anti-Diabetic Effect: For people who have diabetes, cinnamon can also be good as it regulates the level of sugar in the body. It improves the sensitivity of the body to insulin, the hormone that causes diabetes. Different studies have concluded that as little as two teaspoons of cinnamon can be helpful for diabetics.
- Improves Brain Function: Another good reason to consume cinnamon is its benefits for brain health. In fact, it is linked to the prevention of cognitive decline. It can lessen the tendency that you will have Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease, among other forms of neurological damage. Cinnamon can aid in the production of neuroprotective proteins, which will guard the brain against common problems.
- Prevent Cancer: The high levels of antioxidant in cinnamon is perhaps the reason why it can deter the growth of tumors that can possibly lead to cancer. It has cinnamaldehyde, which prevents DNA damage. Also, it is known for significantly improving the health of the colon, and hence, making you less prone to colon cancer.
- Boosts the Immune System: It is also believed that cinnamon can increase the defense of the body against common illnesses that can be caused by viruses and infection, especially colds and cough. It is known for having antibiotic, anti-fungal, antibacterial, and antimicrobial properties.
- Freshens Breath: One of the overlooked benefits of cinnamon is with regards to how it can improve dental health. It can deter cavities and plaques. Consequently, this will make your breath fresher. Traditionally, cinnamon is used in the treatment of mouth sores and toothache.
Culinary and Other Applications of Cinnamon
Aside from the health benefits of cinnamon, it can also be beneficial because of its many applications, which include the following:
- Baking: This is perhaps one of the most popular uses of cinnamon. Its distinct flavor makes it an excellent addition for baked treats. From cinnamon twists to sprinkled cinnamon powder, sky is the limit when it comes to how it can be used for baking. You can also prepare cinnamon rolls, cinnamon apple sugar cake, and pumpkin cinnamon pie rolls, among others.
- Cooking: There are also various recipes that will require the use of cinnamon as one of the main ingredients. In pork noodle soup, for instance, you can add cinnamon and anise for unique sweet flavor. You can also mix cinnamon apple in your pork chop. Indian butter chicken can be given a unique taste with the use of cinnamon as well.
- Moth Repellant: Cinnamon sticks, when broken and combined with cloves and peppercorns, can be an effective way to get rid of moths. You can pack it in sachets and hang it in the cabinet.
- Ant Repellant: In its powdered form, cinnamon can also be sprinkled in areas where there is common ant infestation. However, make sure that the powder does not get wet. Otherwise, it will be ineffective.
- Food Preservative: Using cinnamon in cooking and baking is popular not only because of its aroma and flavor. It is also common because it is considered as a natural preservative. This means that it can deter the growth of bacteria, and hence, preventing quick spoilage of the food.
- Homemade Makeup: You can also use cinnamon for making your own makeup. Among others, it is a popular ingredient for a natural bronzer. Its natural color will give your skin a distinct and beautiful tone.
Growing Cinnamon: Tips and Tricks
In this section, we will provide you with valuable insights on all the things that you have to know about growing cinnamon.
A lot of you may think that growing cinnamon is tricky, but in reality, it is quite easy. It can be planted on a pot and it won’t require too much care or maintenance. It can grow up to 8 feet, but with regular pruning, you can keep its height at only 3 feet.
Before anything else, there are certain conditions that should be met, which will increase the likelihood that cinnamon will grow successfully. Among others, one of the most important is to make sure of the right climate. If you live in a place that is moist and warm, you can easily grow a cinnamon tree.
You can plant cinnamon in a pot, but make sure that it is large enough to support the maximum size of the tree when it grows. This is perfect if you plan to grow the plant indoors, but make sure that the temperature is right, which should be at least 60 degrees. An acidic potting mix that is well-drained will be best. In terms of soil, on the other hand, it should be sandy, and preferably, with organic matter.
While you start by planting cinnamon in the pot, this does not mean that it will stay there throughout its growth. In fact, it is recommended that it is transplanted to containers four months after planting. After another four months, it should be taken out of the container as the tree becomes larger.
When is the best time to plant cinnamon? Fall is perhaps the best season. This will ensure that by the time it is rainy, the tree is matured enough to withstand the weather,
Proper Positioning for Cinnamon
The proper positioning of the plant is another thing that should be given emphasis to make sure that it will thrive. It is recommended that it is planted in a place that gets full or partial sun. Never put it in an area that is fully-shaded as this will cause its death. In fact, it is recommended that the plant, especially once it is taken out of the pot, should get at least seven hours or sunshine in a day.
Once the cinnamon starts to bloom, even if it is still potted, it is best to place it outdoors. This is because it can produce an odor that may be too strong for some people to tolerate.
Propagation of Cinnamon
When it comes to propagation, on the other hand, there are several things that can be done. The most common is through seed planting. For other people, meanwhile, they resort to three-leave cuttings and layering. If you are planting seeds, you should remove the pulp before it is planted. Give it about three weeks before it can germinate.
To succeed in the propagation of cinnamon using the seed, make sure to wait until the berries turn black, which is an indication that it has already ripened. Take up the skin and have the seeds washed. Plant the seeds within three days for optimal outcomes.
Care and Maintenance for Cinnamon
As it has been earlier noted, cinnamon is a low maintenance tree. However, this does not mean that you can leave it completely on its own. You should still be responsible enough to provide the tender loving care that it needs. Minimum involvement will be needed. Applying liquid fertilizers once in a month can be good, although not required. Pruning is necessary to prevent it from growing too wide or too tall. Also, it should be noted that it can be prone to root rot. Over-watering should be avoided. Make sure that the ground is always dry and establish the right drainage to prevent water from accumulating.
Like other trees, cinnamon can be prone to infestation of pests and bugs. This can cause the tree to die even before it matures. With this, neem oil solution can be sprayed on the tree, which will be effective in keeping the bugs away. Doing this treatment at least once in a week is highly-recommended.
Harvesting and Storing Cinnamon
The fun part comes when it is time to harvest. This is the time that you have waited for. However, avoid doing this at a time that is too early. Do not harvest from a tree that is immature. According to gardening experts, it will be best to have the first harvest two years after the tree is planted. Some even wait for three years or until the time cinnamon has reached full maturation.
It is best to harvest just after the rainy season. The first thing that you have to do is to remove the leaves and twigs that appear from the branches. You should cut the branch into smaller pieces so that the next steps will be easier. Take off the outer bark. Cut it lengthwise and peel off from the tree. Have it dried afterwards and it will naturally curl. At this point, you can now use the cinnamon whirls as desired.
Aside from proper harvesting, it is also important to make sure that cinnamon is stored properly in the kitchen, making it possible to retain its freshness even after some time. Keep it in a cool and dry place. Find a clean container where you can keep it and label it with the date it is stored. Keep it away from moist and heat. See to it as well that the container has an airtight seal to prevent the aroma from airing out.
From the things that have been mentioned above, it is apparent that cinnamon is indeed one of the most important herbs in the kitchen. From its culinary applications to its medicinal uses, it can be beneficial in more ways than one. With this, it is no longer surprising that there are many people who decide to grow cinnamon in their garden.