A Pure Food

By Karen Shimizu

Published on September 6, 2009

The cultivation and harvesting of cinnamon and its close cousin cassia is a simple process that continues to be carried out almost entirely by hand, without the intervention of automation or chemicals. True cinnamon, harvested principally in Sri Lanka, comes from the bark of a smallish, shrublike tree of the species Cinnamomum verum, whereas most cassia comes from taller, birchlike trees also belonging to the Cinnamomum genus, but the method for harvesting both kinds of spices is basically the same. In villages and rural areas in the tropical and subtropical countries where Cinnamomum trees grow, workers use knives to remove the tree's rough outer bark and then carefully loosen and peel away the tender, oil-rich inner bark in long, unbroken strips. The inner bark is set out to dry for several days; as moisture in the bark evaporates, the strips curl tightly into narrow quills, which are taken to market whole, broken into chips, or ground to a powder. (In some places the rough outer layer is left intact and the bark is sold in thicker, woody pieces).

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