After writing about leaves and seeds as spices now a little bit unusual part of the plant comes into light. Bark. Isn’t stem bark something tasteless and chewy? Who would want to bite on something like that? Well, if it smells nicely and tastes beautifully, you might want to give it a try. Maybe.
When reading about uses of bark I came across a myriad of different applications. Sami people living in northern Europe (parts of Russia, Finland, Norway and Sweden) are eating pine bread, made of rye with addition of pine bark.
Another interesting product made from bark is quinine. This is a bitter substance that you most likely know from Schweppes. It is also a compound of tonic, a bitter refreshing drink. There exists a theory why British Empire grew so big in the past. English people like drinking tea and tonic. Tonic, or its main compound quinine, is a remedy against malaria. Quinine is also known for having antipyretic (fever-reducing), analgesic (pain killing), and anti-inflammatory properties. Now put one and one together. British soldiers did not suffer from these nuisances to such extent as their rivals (Dutch, Portuguese and Spanish) did and were able to conquer the world easier. This is a big generalization of course, but think about it. Did you know that you can produce aspirin from the bark of willow trees?
Cinnamon – who named it?
Name in most languages comes from Latin cinnamomum. I read about Malaysian and Indonesian languages calling it kayu manis “sweet wood.” Do you remember one of my blogs about ketjap manis (sweet soy sauce)? Now you have learned another word. Manis means sweet in Indonesian and Malay. It also means sugar as I just found out in Google translate.
If you speak French or Dutch, name cinnamon won’t ring the bell. We have to go back to Roman times again. In Latin “canella” means small tube or pipe. In French it is cannelle, in Spanish canela, in Finnish kaneli, and in Dutch kaneel.
Use of cinnamon
In Western cuisine cinnamon shares the same fate as nutmeg and cardamom. It is used mainly for desserts. In Christmas time we also use it for preparing tea and mulled wine, where it’s usually combined with cloves.
The cinnamon that is used in western cuisine comes from Sri Lanka. There it is used for meat and rice dishes. In the Eastern and Arabic cuisine cinnamon is also found in many spice mixtures like garam masala (made of toasted cumin, toasted coriander, black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and nutmeg) and curry powder (made of toasted cumin, toasted coriander, black pepper, chilli peppers, dried ginger, celery, salt, cinnamon, cloves… The yellowish colour comes from turmeric).
As you see the spices are best combined as their aroma is further enhanced in spice blends. The same goes for all the food ingredients (see my blog about minerals and how they are connected to each other). Let me finish my flow of thoughts and stay tuned for next two blogs about spices: fruits, where I will write about paprika and peppers and blends, which is a sort of topic for a whole book as it includes just above every spice in the world.