The Oldest Spice: Origins Of Cinnamon
Updated : September 06, 2021 12:09 IST
Tracing the intersting history of cinnamon.
Cinnamon spice or dal chini is a household staple in our country but did you know it is one of the oldest spices to be traded?
An aromatic spice, cinnamon is obtained from the southeast Asian tree. The bark of the tree is scarped and dried. It is then either ground into a powder (sold as cinnamon powder) or rolled into strips (sold as cinnamon sticks). The best part about cinnamon is its versatility, it can be used in savoury dishes or sweet desserts and even beverages.
The cinnamon tree grows as tall as 66 feet and is regularly scrapped to produce commercial cinnamon. It is native Sri Lanka which was also called Ceylon.
Cinnamon is in fact, one of the oldest spices and the only one that has biblical references, especially in the Hebrew Bible. In older times, cinnamon was valued similarly to ivory and even gold. Seen as a gift fit for gods, ancient Egyptians used cinnamon in rituals of embalming. After becoming popular in the middle east, the Arab traders were introduced to Europe. There, the demand for cinnamon exploded. It was seen as a status symbol. Gonzalo Pizarro and Christopher Columbus, both took this spice to the new world. When the Dutch got control of Ceylon, the cinnamon spice trade was under their reign.
They had a monopoly over till 1784 after which the British took over. And it became a very expensive spice. Even today, a cinnamon quill can fetch upwards of $27 dollars making it one of the most expensive spices. And that is because cinnamon is difficult to cultivate and then obtain. Every tree takes four years before it can be viable for making cinnamon.
Besides cooking, cinnamon also has a lot of utility in medicine. It is used to treat an abundance of pains and ailments.