Friday, May 29, 2009

Cassia or Cinnamon, That Is the Question

I went to my favorite spice store (that's how I think of it, but they do so much more there, shameless plug follows below) on Wednesday, and discovered I wasn't buying at all what I thought I had been buying all these years.

Cinnamon is an imposter.

The cinnamon we all know and love, and have covered our toast in and sprinkled on cookies, is actually referred to as bastard cinnamon.

It's true.

My dear friend at The Well knows her stuff (and I googled it when I got home 'cause I couldn't believe it).

The everyday cinnamon is actually the bark of the cassia tree (see beautiful botanical drawing above). It's a relative to the REAL CINNAMON tree, but not at all the same thing.

This is cassia bark, just before it's ground up.

Into this.

And this is the REAL CINNAMON TREE. In this case, a Sri Lankan Cinnamon Tree (but there are also Chinese Cinnamon Trees, as well as Indonesian Cinnamon Trees).

The REAL CINNAMON has more oil content, and therefore a stronger, more pungent flavor. I got a whiff of REAL CINNAMON on Wednesday at the spice store, and the difference is overwhelming.

I was a chicken - I got the plain old (less expensive) Bastard Cinnamon (they didn't call it that, but I saw it on google and will always think of it that way now), but one of these days I'll try the real thing on my toast.

Shameless plug for my favorite spice store:

If you are anywhere near Bedford, Virginia, The Well is absolutely worth a trip. Although I think of it as a spice store, it's also where I get my Rosemary Essential Oil that I add to shampoos and hand lotions.

This whole cinnamon thing has me wondering if everyone but me knew this. What other herbs are masquerading as the real thing, only to be exposed by people much more knowledgable than myself?

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