Monday, March 9, 2009

commercial cinnamon and wild cinnamon
commercial cinnamon

wild cinnamon (cinnamomum iners)

i think you need an expert to tell them apart - the wild cinnamon and the commercial cinnamon. i took the picture of the commercial cinnamon at fort canning park. as for wild cinnamon, there should be no problem finding one to photograph because this is one of the most common roadside trees in singapore.

known locally as kayu manis, this quick growing small tree, up to about 10 metres in height, is related to the commercial cinnamon tree. it is often planted by the roadside for the brightly coloured new leaves which it puts out at frequent intervals. the leaf blades bear three characteristic longitudinal veins. its small yellowish flowers have an unpleasant waxy smell.

the small black fruits are eaten by birds, squirrels and fruit bats, who will than proceed to disperse the seeds.

the leaves of the wild cinnamon when crushed smelled faintly of cinnamon and are eaten by the caterpillars of the bluebottle butterfly. the wood is used in making fragrant joss sticks and a decoction of the boiled roots is given as a tonic after childbirth or for fever.

what we commonly refer to as cinnamon sticks are actually called quills. even among quills, there are two main types - cinnamon and cassia. (the pictures here show the cassia quills, which were bought from padang in sumatra, indonesia.)

true cinnamon comes from the ceylon cinnamon (cinnamomum zeyanicum) and cassia, also known as chinese cinnamon, comes from the cassia cinnamon (cinnamomum aromaticum). the bulk of the cassia that is imported by the united states comes from indonesia.

true cinnamon is lighter in colour, sweeter and it has a more delicate flavour than cassia.

cinnamon comes in 'quills', strips of bark rolled one in another. the best varieties are pale and parchment-like in appearance.

cinnamon and cassia are very similar and in the united states, most of what is passed off as cinnamon is actually cassia.

cinnamon is also available ground, and can be distinguished from cassia by its lighter colour and much finer powder.

ground cinnamon cannot keep for as long as the quills. the quills can be kept indefinitely but the powdered form loses its flavour after some time.

cassia is less costly than cinnamon and is often sold ground as cinnamon. when buying as sticks or quills, cinnamon rolls into a single quill while cassia is rolled from both sides toward the centre so that they end up resembling scrolls.

cassia and cinnamon have similar uses, but since it is more delicate, cinnamon is used more in dessert dishes. it is commonly used in cakes and other baked goods, milk and rice puddings, chocolate dishes and fruit desserts, particularly apples and pears.

the demand for cinnamon was enough to launch a number of explorers’ enterprises. the portuguese invaded sri lanka immediately after reaching india in 1536. the sinhalese king paid the portuguese tributes of 110,000 kilograms of cinnamon annually.

the dutch captured sri lanka in 1636 and established a system of cultivation that exists to this day. in its wild state, trees grow high on stout trunks. under cultivation, the shoots are continually cropped almost to ground level, resulting in a low bush, dense with thin leafy branches. from these, come the finest quills. (from the encyclopedia of spices)


Lam Chun See said...

I often see the wild cinnamon in Bishan Park when I go for my brisk walking exercise with my friend Chuck. He will have no problem distinguishing the two. I am always amazed at his ability to name the many common roadside trees; not from academic study, but from his kampong days knowledge.

Anyway, I don't like the wild cinnamon. We often see them when catching spiders in our kampong days. What I disliked most are the huge red ants (ang kow hia in Hokkien) nests. We would use our lastic (catapult) to shoot the nests and see the white stuff flow out.

yg said...

when we were boys, we made our own lastik from the branches of the tembusu trees. don't remember using it to shoot ant nests; we used it to shoot birds and sometimes, dogs. the poor bird would either be injured or it would be so badly injured that it eventually died.