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Spice History: Cinnamon

Cinnamon. It’s probably one of the best known and most beloved spice. Cinnamon comes from the bark of the cinnamon tree. Cinnamon trees can grow up to 60 feet tall and are in the evergreen family. When cinnamon bark has been harvested and dried, it curls up into the cinnamon sticks that we are familiar with.

Cinnamon has traditionally been used for both sweet and savory dishes. Many Middle Eastern, Mexican and Indian recipes call for cinnamon in curries and meat dishes. There is more than one type of cinnamon available. Maybe you have heard of Ceylon cinnamon? This is the true cinnamon harvested in Sir Lanka which use to be known as Ceylon. But there is also Saigon cinnamon (Vietnam) and cassia which is not actually cinnamon. It has more of stronger flavor while true cinnamon is milder and sweeter.

One of the really nice health benefits of cinnamon is that it has been found to lower blood sugar. This is definitely a plus when we are using it in holiday baking! Cinnamon also helps with digestion and fights infections. It is anti-inflammatory and also has lots of antioxidants.

Cinnamon first grew in Asia and was used by the Chinese who wrote about it. It has been a favorite spice for thousands of years from the Egyptians to the Romans and Greeks. Far from using it only as a culinary spice, ancient civilizations often used it as a medicine and in anointing oils. Later, as trade began to expand around the world, it was the most common spice traded by the Dutch East Indian Company.

Just about any recipe gets a boost from a little sprinkle of cinnamon. Cinnamon is one of those spices where you can never have too much as it usually blends in with other flavors very well.

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