• Ruwanmali Samarakoon

Centuries-old Ceylon Cinnamon

Ceylon Cinnamon (botanical name: Cinnamomum zeylanicum)

It is hard to imagine that the bark of a tropical evergreen tree has the history as one of the most esteemed and sought-after spices in the world. Ceylon cinnamon is true cinnamon native to Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon.) As one of the oldest spices, references date back thousands of years with Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans seeking the precious quills.


Ceylon cinnamon has an essence that bows to both sweet and savoury foods. Ground cinnamon is a key ingredient in many baked treats, puddings, ice cream, and fruit fillings, sauces or dishes. One can hardly think of Christmas without cinnamon scented goodies wafting from warm cozy kitchens. Growing up in a Sri Lankan household, cinnamon was used as a compliment to savoury dishes such as my mother’s fragrant yellow rice. It is common among many world cuisines for cinnamon to be added to savoury grain dishes, curries as well as meat dishes. Cinnamon is used as an ingredient in Ayurvedic medicines to treat headaches and used as an ingredient in herbal teas to remedy coughs and colds.

What to know: There are several species of Cinnamomum, each with their own characteristics, taste and aroma. Cinnamomum Cassia native to China is stronger and warmer than Ceylon cinnamon. There is also Indonesian cinnamon and Vietnamese cinnamon. Ceylon cinnamon, Cassia and Indonesian cinnamon are the most found in markets.

How you can use it: Use cinnamon powder in a variety baking, pie fillings, or sprinkle on top of cereals or breakfast granola. Whole sticks may be used in sauces, in the liquid for simmering or poaching fruits, or warm mulled wines, ciders and hot teas. It compliments cherries, raisins, apples, pears, squash, pumpkin, pecans, and almonds. Whole sticks can be added to some curries or rice/grain dishes. A sprinkle of ground cinnamon in hot chocolate, steamed milk, or sweetened milk coffee is comforting on a cold day.

Wellness benefits: aids digestion; antibacterial; helps relieve coughs, sore throat, colds

How to keep it fresh for longer: Cinnamon sticks and ground powder should be stored in airtight containers in a cool dark, dry, cupboard. Stored in this way, they may be kept for over a year.

Good read! The Spice and Herb Bible, by Ian Hemphill, Kate Hemphill


Photo credit: Natasha Asselstine

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