Cinnamon is one of the oldest and most popular spices in the world. Warm and sweet, this spice has been used for thousands of years in both culinary and medicinal preparations. In ancient Egypt, cinnamon was even used as an embalming agent.
But don’t let that spoil your appetite.
While there are many subspecies of cinnamon, they can be divided into two main categories: cassia cinnamon and “true” cinnamon. Cassia cinnamon is by far the more available type in North American and European markets. However, some find the extra hunting worth it to find “true” cinnamon (also known as Cinnamomom zeylanicum or Cinnamomom verum), which is sweeter and more aromatic than cassia varieties, which are spicier and more robust.
Cinnamon contains a compound called coumarin which has blood-thinning properties and may be toxic to the liver and kidneys if consumed in large quantities. “True” cinnamon varieties have vastly lower amounts of coumarin than cassia varieties.
Medicinally, cinnamon is best known (and researched) for its blood-sugar balancing effects. Culinarily, cinnamon is probably best known swirled into a spiral-shaped pastry, or dusted on apples.
Cinnamon can be sold as a ground powder, or in thin rolls of bark known as quills.
Cinnamon is reddish-brown in color, with a delicious spicy-sweet aroma and flavor, with notes of burnt wood.
“True” cinnamon and cassia cinnamon will be hard to distinguish in powder form, but in quill form, there are some defining features of each.
“True” cinnamon quills will appear to be made up of many thin layers of bark, and can be crumbled relatively easily with strong hands or a mortar and pestle. Cassia cinnamon quills will be made up of one thicker layer of bark, and will be quite difficult to process, and are better used for steeping.
Cinnamon, like most spices, is not a significant source of nutrition in the amounts typically consumed. It is however, very high in fiber, providing about 2.5g per teaspoon.
Cinnamon also contains a variety of health-benefiting compounds and antioxidants, so it is worth adding to the diet not just for flavor, but for nutrition too.
Cinnamon is widely available and can be found nearly everywhere that food is sold: grocery stores, health food stores, bulk food stores, and spice shops.
Generally, cassia cinnamon is more widely available than “true” cinnamon. Unless the product you are buying clearly specifies “true” cinnamon (also known as Cinnamomom zeylanicum or Cinnamomom verum), you can assume it is a cassia variety. Consumers looking to purchase “true” cinnamon may have to visit specialty spice shops or health food stores.
Like many other ground spices, cinnamon can lose potency over time, so shop at stores with high turnover, and in the case of bulk food stores, covered bins.
If you have the opportunity to sniff the product, do it. Fresh, good quality cinnamon powder or quills will smell sharply spicy, sweet, and aromatic. A dull, dusty, or musty aroma means cinnamon is past its prime.
Keep cinnamon powder or quills in a sealed container at room temperature, ideally away from heat and light, such as a closed cupboard or drawer.
Compared to whole quills, ground cinnamon will lose potency faster. Assuming proper storage, ground cinnamon has a shelf life of about six months, while the quills will stay sharp and aromatic for about a year. After this time, cinnamon is still perfectly safe to eat, but it will have lost much of its flavor.
Ground cinnamon is ready to use and is a delicious addition to warm beverages, smoothies, porridges, or cut fruit (particularly apples and pears).
Cinnamon quills are too tough to eat, although some people enjoy chewing on them for the flavor and breath-freshening effect. Generally, quills are processed into a powder with the help of a coffee grinder or a mortar and pestle before using. Alternatively, they are thrown into pots of boiling liquid, in their whole form, to flavor teas, mulled ciders, or stews.
Apple pie becomes appropriate for breakfast in this smoothie version of a favorite dessert, which features a double dose of warming cinnamon.
Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 15 minutes Yield: 8-10 servings of granola; 1 smoothie
For the Granola:
Begin by adding oats, cinnamon, and sea salt to a bowl and stir to combine. Next, add coconut oil, maple syrup, and walnut halves and mix to incorporate, forming a sticky mixture.
Line a baking tray with parchment paper and spread out the oat mixture. Place in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven and bake for 15 minutes, removing the tray from the oven at the halfway point to give the mixture a stir.
Once the granola topping is baked, allow to cool.
For the Smoothie:
Add all ingredients to a blender and process until smooth. Pour into a glass and top with crunchy granola. Enjoy immediately.
Note: There will be leftover granola, use the leftovers as garnish for other smoothies, yogurt, or fruit, or enjoy it on its own.
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Cinnamon is one of the oldest and most widely used spices in the world. Although there are many subspecies of cinnamon, they can be divided into two main categories: cassia cinnamon and “true” cinnamon. Cassia cinnamon is by far the more available type in North American and European markets, but some find “true” cinnamon to be worth the hunt, as it has a sweeter, more refined flavor. In addition to its culinary uses, cinnamon is also used medicinally, primarily as a blood sugar balancing agent. It is also very high in fiber. The spice can be found ground or whole, in thin rolls of bark known as quills. The former is ready to be dusted on anything that marries well with its spicy sweetness, while the latter must be steeped, or if you are into hippy dental practices, chewed.