Cinnamon is perhaps best known nowadays as a topping for our daily latte or cappuccino: I like to mix it with my preferred beverage, a cortado! It has a gorgeous flavor and aroma, but where does this spice come from, what is its history, and is it really beneficial to our health and wellbeing? Well, cinnamon comes from the inner bark of a tree related to the laurel family, which is native to India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Myanmar. We can obtain it as cinnamon sticks or as ground powder, and it was imported into Egypt as long ago as 2000 B.C. In ancient Greece, an inscription tells of a gift of cinnamon and cassia to the temple of Apollo at Miletus. Cinnamon was used in ancient Egypt to embalm mummies.
In the Middle Ages, Indonesian rafts transported cinnamon from the Moluccan Islands to the east coast of Africa, an incredible journey, and from there it was taken overland to the Mediterranean coast. For a long time, Venetian traders had a monopoly on the spice trade and they exported cinnamon by ship from Alexandria. The famous explorer. Ferdinand Magellan, discovered a type of cinnamon in The Philippine Islands. As far as Sri Lanka is concerned, the first European country to gain a foothold there in the cinnamon-producing areas was Portugal, but the Portuguese were driven out by the Dutch in 1658. Britain took control of what was then known as Ceylon in 1796, but some time earlier, in 1767, Lord Brown of The British East India Company had established what became Asia's largest cinnamon estate in the Cannanore District of Southwest India.
Cinnamon Toast Pudding
Let's take a look now at some ways of using cinnamon in cooking and in drinks. Cinnamon can be sprinkled on coffee, oatmeal, cereal, or toast, or baked into cinnamon rolls. Many people use it in sauces, and you can add a teaspoonful to smoothies or protein shakes. In parts of Greece, cinnamon brandy concoctions are popular. Cinnamon, maple syrup, and pear crumble is delicious, as is a cinnamon chocolate banana shake. For this, all you need do is blend together bananas, milk, cinnamon, cocoa powder, and agave syrup. Just pour the mixture into glasses and sprinkle grated chocolate on top! Voilà! Noodle kugels, flavored with apple and cinnamon, originated in Russia and are now widely eaten in the United States and elsewhere. If you like Greek cuisine, you will enjoy cinnamon lamb with aubergines. The combination of flavours arising from raisins, honey, vinegar, capers, and cinnamon probably evokes something of the taste of ancient Byzantine cookery. Cinnamon is used in sauces which go with Smyrna sausages (Soudzoukakia Marinata) and with yemistes melitzanes, which are stuffed aubergines with a cinnamon tomato sauce.
One Greek chef has written: "My grandmother baked with cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg, and also used cinnamon in many savory dishes, too. I always knew if I'd like something by its smell." I know I feel the same way!
What are some of the health benefits of cinnamon? Cinnamon contains many minerals and vitamins, including calcium, magnesium, and zinc, and it lowers blood sugar levels, which is important in controlling diabetes type 2 and in losing weight. Cinnamon works directly on the muscle cells to make them remove sugar from the bloodstream, and it reduces insulin resistance. By controlling insulin levels, our body's metabolism is speeded up and this raised metabolic rate enables the body to store healthy carbohydrates, and to use them for energy and not for the production of fat. Cinnamon has anti-inflammatory properties and can be used to treat pain, headaches, and arthritic aches. It improves circulation, and can help with PMS and PCOS. It also benefits our bones and teeth. Some homeopathic practitioners are successfully using cinnamon to help in the response to ADHD.
At one time, cinnamon's financial worth was greater than that of gold, and it is certainly worth its weight in gold, as we say, if we use it to benefit our health. A few people are allergic to cinnamon, and they should obviously avoid it and look for substitutes. One teaspoonful, or maybe two, per day is enough! After reading this short article, you may look at the seemingly humble ground cinnamon with new eyes!