Botanical name of Cinnamon is Cinnamomum verum and it is an evergreen tree, dried inner bark of which is used as a spice. Cinnamon trees are medium-tall trees that reach up to a height of 6–15 meters on full growth. Cinnamon is one of the oldest known spices that have been traded since time immemorial. Cinnamon is naturally seen in the forests of Western Ghats and commercially cultivated in Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
Being a hardy plant, Cinnamon is adapted to a wide range of climatic conditions. It grows well at an altitude of about 1,000m and an annual rainfall of 200–250cm is ideal for its cultivation. Cinnamon is commercially cultivated as a rainfed crop.
Cinnamon is adapted to a wide range of soils ranging from nutrient rich loamy soils to poor sandy loam soils.
Konkan Tej, Yercaud 1,Navashree and Nithyashree are some of the commercially cultivated species of cinnamon. Navashree is a superior selection with high regeneration capacity (6–7 shoots/year), high yield (average yield 56kg/ha in the first 4 year), and high bark recovery (40.6%). It has also excellent quality characters with bark oil 2.7% with a very good cinnamaldehyde content 73%, bark oleoresin 8%, and leaf oil 2.8%. Navashree is recommended for all cinnamon-growing regions in India.
Seed propagation and vegetative propagation through cuttings and air layers are generally practiced in cinnamon.
Raising of Seedlings
In Western Ghats, cinnamon flowers in January and fruits ripen during June–August. Fruits are collected from the tree and then seeds are removed and cleaned and sown without much delay as cinnamon seeds have very low viability. Seeds are sown in sand beds or polythene bags containing a mixture of sand, soil and well-powdered dried cow dung in a 3:3:1 ratio. Watering is done regularly and the seeds germinate within 10–20 days. The seedlings require artificial shading till they become 6 months old.
Cultivation of Cinnamon Trees
Ideal time for cinnamon seedlings are at the onset of south-West monsoons. The pits of 50cm × 50cm × 50cm size are dug at a spacing of 3m × 3m and are filled with compost and top soil before planting. Generally one year old seedlings are planted. 4 -5 seedlings are planted per pit and adequate shade is provided for the seedlings until they get established.
Two weeding in a year (June–July and October–November) and one digging of soil around the bushes (during August–September) are done.
A fertilizer dose of 20g N, 18g P2O5 and 25g K2O/seedling is recommended for the first year. This dose is increased gradually to 200g N, 180g P2O5 and 200g K2O for grown-up plants of 10 years and above. The fertilizers are to be applied in 2 equal split doses in May–June and September–October.
Cinnamon is a rainfed crop. But an annual rainfall of 200–250cm is ideal. In the initial 2–3 years, watering is given during summer months twice a week. The quantity of water depends upon the soil moisture level and growth of plants.
Coppicing is a practice of cutting back the height of the cinnamon trees to a desired height in a commercial plantation so as to manage the plantation more effectively. Two-year-old plants are coppiced during June–July to a height of about 15cm from the stump. Afterwards, main stem produces a bunch of side shoots and subsequently the plants assume the shape of a low bush of about 2m height and a bunch of canes suitable for peeling crop up in a period of about 4 years. Regular peeling operations could be commenced in case of seedling bushes, from fourth or fifth year, depending upon the extent of development of peeler shoots. Usually coppicing is done in alternate years.
Ideal time for harvesting shoots is from September to November. Side shoots having finger thickness and uniform brown colour are ideal for bark extraction. A ‘test cut’ can be made on the stem with a sharp knife to judge the suitability of time of peeling. If the bark separates readily, the cutting can be commenced immediately. The stems are cut close to the ground when they are about 2 years old, as straight as possible, 1.0–1.25m length and 1.25cm thickness. Harvested shoots are bundled together and transported to the pack house for further post harvest procedures.
POST HARVEST MANAGEMENT
Peeling of the inner bark
Scraping and peeling of the inner barks from the shoots are carried out at the pack houses. The peeling is a specialized operation, requiring some skill and considerable experience. It is done by using a specially made knife, which has a small and round end with projection in one side to facilitate ripping of the bark. The rough outer bark is first scrapped off. Then with brass rod, the scrapped portion is polished to facilitate easy peeling. A longitudinal slit is made from one end to the other. Then working the knife between the bark and wood, the bark is ripped quickly. The shoots cut in the morning are peeled on the same day. The peels are gathered and kept overnight under shade.
Drying of the Peels
Peels are dried first in shade for a day and then in the sunlight for 4 days. During drying, the bark contracts and assumes the shape of quill. The smaller quills are inserted into larger ones to form compound quills.
Grading of Cinnamon Rolls
Major grades of cinnamon rolls are quills, quillings, featherings, scrapped chips and unscrapped chips. The quills are graded from ‘00000’ being the finest quality, to ‘0’ the coarsest quality. The small pieces of the bark, left after preparing the quills are graded as ‘quillings’. The very thin inner pieces of bark are dried as ‘featherings’. From the coarser canes, the bark is scrapped off, instead of peeling, and this grade is known as ‘scrapped chips’. The bark is also scrapped off without removing the outer bark and is known as ‘unscrapped chips’.
Preparation of Cinnamon Powder
Different grades of cinnamon rolls are used for ground cinnamon. Ground cinnamon or cinnamon powder are prepared by grinding the dried cinnamon rolls into a fine powder.‘Cinnamon powder’ are graded based on the grade of the cinnamon rolls used for powdering.
Health benefits of cinnamon powder
A paste of honey and cinnamon powder may be used as a jam for breakfast for reducing cholesterol. Cinnamon and honey mixture may be used for insect bites where honey-cinnamon powder paste is applied on insect wounds. Honey-cinnamon mixture in warm water, if taken regularly for a long period, can cure arthritis. Honey-cinnamon paste in olive oil reduces hair loss if applied on head regularly before bath for 15 – 30 minutes. A solution of honey and cinnamon powder in warm water if taken in empty stomach reduces urinary bladder infections. Cinnamon-honey paste can be applied thrice a day on aching tooth to stop the pain. Health benefits of cinnamon powder and honey mixture also includes enhanced fertility, immunity to common colds, and reduced stomach problems. Cinnamon and honey paste is good for treating bad breath, for reducing weight and for increasing longevity.
Cinnamon tea is prepared by mixing 2 tablespoons of honey and 3 teaspoons of Cinnamon Powder and 16 ounces of green tea. This is a best medicine for reducing cholesterol (level of cholesterol in the blood is reduced by 10% within 2 hours of cinnamon tea consumption).
Cinnamon Powder and Honey for weight loss
Take one portion of cinnamon powder and two portions of honey (honey obtained from small species of honey bees). Firstly, add one small cup of boiled water into the cinnamon powder and make a solution. Keep this solution for 30 minutes to cool and then add honey into it and mix it well. Half portion of this mixture should be consumed just before going to bed and rest should be consumed in the following morning in empty stomach. Use this mixture for one or two months for considerable weight loss. Cinnamon naturally reduces overweight and cleanses the system naturally.