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Thursday, December 03, 2015

25 Days of Herbs and Celebrations - December 3

Dear Folks,

Celebrating the Multicultural festivities of December, I thought I would pick an herb or spice which is referenced in the Bible (land of three of the Major Religions of the world) and used in many cuisines around the entire world, as a way of gathering together all the wealth of diversity around us - in true celebration.

Day 3
Herb:  Cinnamon -- Proverbs 7:17

Cinnamomum verum)  Ceylon Cinnamon is considered the True Cinnamon contrasted to another Biblical herb Cassia (discussed in the next post - Day 4).  It is the bark of the tree which gives all the wonderful flavor.
While the Biblical reference to Cinnamon is as a perfume (and you can find recipes for making ancient type perfumes using cinnamon, myrrh, and Frankincense) we most think of it for its excellent flavor in cooking and baking.

Taste:  True Cinnamon has a taste described as milder and sweet compared with descriptions of Cassia as strong and occasionally bitter.  Modern manufacturers opt for Cassia because of the bold taste and that fact it is cheaper than true cinnamon.

Medicinal:  The distinction is important because of the medicinal properties of True Cinnamon and toxicity of Cassia in high doses e.g., Levels of the blood-thinning agent
coumarin in Ceylon cinnamon are much lower than those in cassia.  True Cinnamon is a benefit in reducing cholesterol and blood sugar levels in diabetics.   It is usually recommended to add some cinnamon to the daily diet.

Cinnamon has a long history of use in sweets, in mulled hot drinks like cider with or without alcohol, as a part of a nice hot cup of Mexican Cocoa, and as a component of some traditional spice mixes such as Chinese Five-Spice, Garam Masala, and Middle Eastern Baharat.  NOTE:  When you go looking for recipes for these spice mixes you will often see them using Cassia - just keep in mind that you need to limit how much of the mixes you use because of the "coumarin" issue
of Cassia over true Cinnamon.

While Cinnamon probably can't be grown here in the desert
(it is very frost sensitive*), you can get some of Cinnamon's essential oils through Cinnamon Basil (planted in February for spring and summer growing).  The beauty of the essential oils in herbs is how they not only mimic flavors of other plants, they ARE flavored by 1 or more of the same essential oils found in the not-related plant.

Cinnamon Basil, like many basils goes very, very well with stone fruits (peach, apricot and pear) and berries.


My Arizona Aztec Blend
1 tablespoon each ground cinnamon, cocoa ,and mild chili powder. Makes 3 tablespoons, store in jar in dark, cool pantry.

Use this to make hot cocoa (about a 5 teaspoons, to 1 cup of milk and 2 tablespoons of sugar), stir a teaspoon in your coffee, or to make this sauce:

Make a type of mole sauce by mixing 1 tablespoon of the blend  into a half cup each chicken broth and white wine, add a pat of butter and season to taste with salt.  Pour over grilled, baked or roasted chicken or pork.


Nate King Cole - The Christmas Song

It's A Marshmallow World in The Winter - Dean Martin

*I found a fun video on growing a cinnamon tree in Australia!  If you click on a link in the text under the video it takes you to a nursery (DaleysFruit) with some descriptions of cultivating the tree.


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-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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