Open up the cabinets in any kitchen and find a common denominator. Flours, sugars, cooking oils and what else? Spices! Spices help to add flavour to your favourite meals. Even if you just like peppering your eggs or mashed potatoes, you are utilising spices to enhance the taste of your food. Although now readily available at your local grocery store, spices were once considered as valuable as jewels or precious metals. They were used as currency in the trade of goods, slaves, lands and given as gifts during diplomatic negotiations. Entire expeditions were launched in the hopes of finding new varieties of spices. And one of the most desired spices was cinnamon.
Cinnamon is a wonderfully diverse spice. It is best to purchase a ‘quill’–an intact stick of cinnamon—and grind it with a mortal and pestle,or a coffee grinder. Cinnamon looses it’s flavour and potency quickly, like pepper, so it is key to grind only what you need. The jars of pre-ground spices can’t hold a candle to the freshly ground spices. Sprinkle your fresh cinnamon on toast, ice cream or pumpkin pie. Use the quill to stir your coffee or tea, and infuse the smell and taste into your beverage. If you love the smell, you can place whole sticks of cinnamon in pans of water, boil them on the stove and enjoy the scent of cinnamon wafting through your living space. Enjoy this link for a wonderful Valentine’s Day treat—Valentine’s Heart-Shaped Cinnamon Rolls from Spiced.
The tantalizing aroma isn’t the spice’s only appeal. Medieval doctors used cinnamon as treatment for various ailments, including sore throats and coughing. More modern uses for cinnamon include helping to lower blood sugar levels and lowering LDL cholesterol levels. It has also been linked to lessening inflammation and arthritic pains.
There are many varieties of cinnamon and each one with a slightly different look, aroma, texture, and potency. Varieties that are sweeter and more mild are used for baked goods and sweets. More bitter varieties are best pared with spicier foods, like curries and moles. Cinnamomum zeylanicum is the scientific name of ‘true’ cinnamon and is native to Sri Lanka. This type of cinnamon, commonly called Ceylon, is considered of the finest quality and is generally more expensive. The type commonly consumed in the United States is referred to as ‘cassia’, and actually refers to two different species: Cinnamomum cassia and Cinnamomum burmannii. By consuming both cassia and Ceylon, you can reap the healthy benefits, but be careful. The recommended dosage of cinnamon ½ to 1 teaspoon per day. However, cassia cinnamon has been known to be toxic when consumed excessively, so make sure to find Ceylon, or ‘true’ cinnamon. The packaging should be labeled properly. Cinnamon can also cause allergic reactions, mouth sores, and even liver problems. It is best to speak with a dietician or a health care provider if you wish to take the larger doses.
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