Once used in love potions and to perfume wealthy Romans, this age-old spice comes in two varieties Cinnamomum zeylanicum (Ceylon cinnamon) and Cinnamomum cassia (cassia). Cinnamon is the inner bark of a tropical evergreen tree. The bark is harvested during the rainy season when it's more pliable. When dried, it curls into long quills, which are either cut into lengths and sold as cinnamon sticks or ground into powder. Ceylon (or tree) is buff-colored and mildly sweet in flavor; cassia cinnamon is a dark reddish-brown color and has a more pungent, slightly bittersweet flavor. Cassia cinnamon is used and sold simply as "cinnamon" in many countries (including the United States). Cinnamon is widely used in sweet dishes but also makes an intriguing addition to savory dishes such as stews and curries. Oil of cinnamon comes from the pods of the cinnamon tree and is used as a flavoring, as well as a medicinal.
From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.
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