Off the beaten path near the small town of Haburugala, Sri Lanka, hides a cinnamon garden. As you imagine it, try to hear the echo of small children playing or the carrying voices of the women who own this property in the back country of Sri Lanka’s Southern Province, near the Bentota River. The cinnamon and permaculture garden, called Amuura, was established in 2012 by a mother, Claire, and her two daughters, Paulina (with two young children herself) and Carlotta, originally from Germany. What led them to Sri Lanka was a desire to build a sustainable life carefully designed in harmony with the natural surroundings.
When I call Paulina to talk to her about her cinnamon farm, she is very busy, going back and forth between the farm and their other property; a beach house located in the town of Beruwala, Kalutara District, Western Province. Collectively, the family’s personal and educational backgrounds span medicine, health nutrition, yoga, cooking, and permaculture.
Paulina explains that permaculture, also referred to as permanent agriculture, means building up an ecosystem that works with the existing nature. Partnering plants that support each other, re-using old farming methods and creating a garden that nourishes itself without the use of pesticides or artificial fertilizers. They built and created the garden (all on their own) to be a model garden for permaculture farming, food sovereignty, and self-sustainability. What drew me to Amuura’s story is their cultivation of organic Ceylon cinnamon (also known as, sweet cinnamon or true cinnamon.) Many of us take for granted the beautifully rolled quills we see neatly packed in glass bottles sold at grocery stores. We do not realize the labour-intensive process involved in its production.
Paulina tells me their work begins in the early hours of the morning, when the sun starts to rise, "the cinnamon trees are cut down to stump size. Branches are carried from the plantation to the house." After, the branches are washed and the outer bark is scraped off with the use of special tools, the inner bark, the cinnamon we actually eat, is gently carved in order to separate the cinnamon from the inner wood. This skinned layer is then rolled into layers and combined to create a larger quill. The edges of the quills are cut to standard length by scissors and then dried for at least 10 days before packaging. What makes their cinnamon unique is they do not treat it with sulphur. Instead, they dry it for four times longer (compared to other producers) to achieve the same tenability as sulphured cinnamon. Also, rather than use machines in the drying process, they use natural sunlight and a clay room. (See Amuura's YouTube video of their cinnamon garden location, harvest, and production.)
If you are ever in Sri Lanka, a visit to Amuura is well worth your time. See their website for more information. If not to better appreciate how cinnamon is harvested, then to experience a holistic way of life that blends environment, livelihood, and sustenance. And at the very least, you will be surely treated with some of their favourite cinnamon recipes like cinnamon parfait, cinnamon rolls, or spice tea with cinnamon.
"Today is Amal’s birthday!" Paulina says excitedly to me, as she rushes off the phone—she has many things to do in preparation for the big day. In between the hard work, are the serendipitous moments; the rewards of a life well lived and in harmony with nature. They have taken the unpaved path to happiness. And I know there will be cinnamon in the chocolate cake Amal enjoys on her special day; a small but sweet victory. ~
In North America we often view cinnamon as an ingredient largely for cooking and baking, but it has long been used as a medicinal herb. In modern herbal medicine, Ceylon cinnamon is used to help treat colds, flu, and coughs (National Geographic Guide to Herbal Medicine). In Ayurveda, Ceylon cinnamon is used in Yogi/ herbal teas for the same purpose of healing colds and congestion of the lungs, as well as, to improve circulation. It is also used in combination with other plants to treat indigestion, headaches, and menstrual complaints.
All images on this page ©AMUURA
First photo, from left to right: Amal, Claire, Emmet, Paulina, Carlotta (three generations) at their beach house
Second photo: Amal and her birthday cake