Madagascar Cinnamon

From MadaCamp
Jump to: navigation, search

Madagascar is one of few countries outside of Sri Lanka where Ceylon cinnamon grows. The cinnamon tree belongs to the Lauraceae family of plants which is native to Sri Lanka. Its botanical names include Cinnamomum Zeylanicum and Cinnamomum verum, the latter meaning true cinnamon in Latin. The plant was probably introduced to Madagascar in ancient times by sailors crossing the Indian Ocean on their trading routes. Madagascar and Ceylon cinnamon alike are often referred to as gourmet cinnamon.

The export of Madagascar cinnamon was temporarily paused in the mid-1990s due to over-harvesting by which the complete stems and roots were removed. As farmers have since been taught sustainable cinnamon farming methods, not to harvest the complete tree with its roots, enough cinnamon trees have recovered and the export ban was lifted and production and export resumed. In 2011, Madagascar produced 2,300 metric tons of cinnamon, approximately 1.1% of the world production. While cinnamon grows in many areas in Madagascar, the most producing regions are Atsinanana and Analanjirofo.

Madagascar’s cinnamon grows best in sandy soil, where the tree can grow up to 15 metres in its natural state, but which is cut earlier for harvesting. Harvesting is usually done after the rainy season while the bark is moist and rich in flavour and essential oils. Only the inner bark of the tree is used for the spice.

Madagascar and Ceylon cinnamon has the lowest amount of coumarin contents compared to other cinnamons. Coumarin is a slightly toxic substance, which is best avoided if taking cinnamon as a health supplement, in teas etc. Cinnamon is used in a wide variety of traditional medicines, and of course in cooking, especially in desserts, cinnamon rolls, muffins and countless other sweets, as well as with coffee, chocolate, rum etc. Additionally, cinnamon is used in essential oils and perfumes.

Madagascar and Ceylon cinnamon alike should not be mixed up with Cassia, scientifically named Cinnamomum aromaticum and commonly known as Chinese cinnamon. It is easy to tell the difference between Ceylon/Madagascar and Chinese varieties. Madagascar cinnamon is sweet, citrusy and delicate in flavour compared with Chinese Cassia cinnamon, which is stronger, more intense and slightly bitter. The bark of Cassia is also strong and rough while Madagascar cinnamon is smooth and paler in colour, crumbly (easy to break). Madagascar/Ceylon cinnamon rolls up like a newspaper from one side, whereas Cassia cinnamon usually curls inwards from two sides forming a hollow tube.

There are many other types of cinnamon but only four commercial types: In addition to Ceylon and Cassia, there are also Saigon and Korintje, however, the latter two are also classified as Cassia. Additionally, there is Mexican cinnamon, but which is, in fact, Ceylon or the Madagascar variety. Mexican cinnamon has only gained its name because of Mexico importing so much of it. To add to the confusion, additional names for Ceylon/Madagascar cinnamon is Real Cinnamon, True Cinnamon, Dutch Cinnamon and Sweet Cinnamon.

Additional information