Plant of the month: December
Also Known As: cinnamon
Native To: Sri Lanka
Blooms: small, green flowers not showy; insignificant
Habitat: subtropical and tropical forests
Where Found At Birmingham Botanical Gardens: Subtropical House
A large evergreen shrub or tree, cinnamon is commercially grown in for its warm, aromatic spice made from its bark. To make cinnamon powder, the outer bark is first removed from the stems. The inner bark is then scraped, dried and ground into powder. To make cinnamon sticks or “quills” the stems have to processed soon after harvesting whilst the stems are still wet. Again, the outer bark is removed, then the stems is hammered evenly to loosen the inner bark, which can be separated into 1 metre long rolls, 0.5mm thick. These are dried in a well ventilated, warm area for 4 to 6 hours before being cut into 5 to 10 cm lengths for sale. The cultivated trees are coppiced or cut back to the ground to encourage new stems. This is done on a two year cycle so that only two year old stems are used. Cinnamon can be used to flavour cakes, biscuits and other deserts as well as curries, stews, soups, meats and pickles. It is also used in drinks like teas and mulled wine for Christmas.