I spent part of Saturday harvesting cinnamon and processing it.
One of the most delicious spices in the world is cinnamon – and, joy of joys, we have a cinnamon tree growing on our property – and I figured it was about time to harvest some and share the process with you.
Unlike most spices, the portion of cinnamon we use in cooking is the bark. Cinnamon sticks
Harvesting cinnamon requires taking down a good-sized branch or trunk, removing the gray outer bark, then peeling and drying the delicious inner bark.
We harvested enough cinnamon for a year’s worth of cooking (at least), though now that we have such a ready abundance I might start finding new things to use it for.
Cinnamon trees, according to Infogalactic, “are 10–15 metres (32.8–49.2 feet) tall,” and are a member of the Laurel family.
Most of the trees I see around here are in the 25′ range. The one I harvested from was maybe 20′ and is probably a younger tree.
Essentially, cinnamon harvesting is just a matter of cutting down some branches or the entire trunk of a tree.
There seems to be a time of year that it’s better, so to figure out when that was I just spied on my neighbors and waited until one of them harvested some. Heh.
Cinnamon is propagated from seeds and I’ve seen baby trees scattered here and there all around the woods here. When I get my own land I hope to dig some saplings up and plant a hedge of them that I can cut as needed for a regular supply of cinnamon.
Also according to Infogalactic, one common method of harvesting cinnamon is “growing the tree for two years, then coppicing it, i.e., cutting the stems at ground level. The following year, about a dozen new shoots will form from the roots, replacing those that were cut.”
That would work well for me. The hard wood left after harvesting the bark can then be used for charcoal production. You can also use cinnamon leaves to make cinnamon tea, which is pleasant and good for you.
The rough outer bark of cinnamon isn’t flavorful or pleasant to eat, so that is scraped off.
You want the inner layer, which you can see is red-orange:
It gets a lot redder as it oxidizes and dries.
After scraping off the outer bark, score and peel off the inner bark in sheets.
It’s crumbly and if there are any knots in the wood they’ll break the bark as it peels, but don’t worry about getting it perfect.
Chances are you’re going to grind the stuff anyhow.
Here’s some of the peeled cinnamon drying out:
Harvesting and processing cinnamon is a great afternoon project.
For those of you who aren’t in the tropics, cinnamon is a tropical tree but can take some cold. Chances are good that you can grow them up into north Florida or so with some protection, especially when the trees are young.
Cinnamon’s cousin the camphor tree (Cinnamomum camphora) has invaded that whole range, so that may be a good precedent.
Interesting experiment: I wonder what the inner bark of a camphor tree might taste like in cooking? Or as an herb?
Someone go peel a branch and let me know! I would totally be doing that RIGHT NOW if I still lived in Florida.