Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Cinnamon: A Holiday Spice

As the holiday season quickly approaches, so do the spicy sweets. Think gingerbread and cinnamon rolls. When it comes to winter treats, cinnamon is one of the most commonly used spices during the holiday season. Dating back to 2800 B.C. Chinese records, it has long been a highly desired and fragrant commodity.

A native of Sri Lanka, (known as kwai in the Chinese language today) its botanical name is from the Hebraic and Arabic term amomon, which means fragrant spice plant. Ancient Egyptians used cinnamon in their embalming process. Ironically, the Italians called the cinnamon sticks canella, meaning "little tube," after their word for ‘cannon’.

Ancient Egyptians used cinnamon in their embalming process. Medieval physicians used cinnamon in medicines to treat coughing and sore throats. In Ancient Rome, cinnamon was used during funeral processions. In 65 AD, Roman Emperor Nero burned a year's supply of prized cinnamon at his second wife Poppaea Sabina's funeral in order to show the depth of his grief and remorse for having murdered her.

In the 17th century, the Dutch learned the source of cinnamon on the coast of India. They were said to have bribed and threatened the local king into destroying it to preserve keep their monopoly on this valuable spice.

By the 19 century that monopoly began to crumble. It was discovered that cinnamon could easily be grown in places like Java and Sumatra. Today can also be cultivated in South America, the West Indies, and other tropical climates.

Available in shops all over the world, it has found its way into a variety of fun holiday recipes. Here are two:

Cinnamon Cider

Cinnamon Toast

Cinnamon Surprise Coffee Cake

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