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Fresh Cinnamon leaves are elongated, slender, and shiny green. There is a prominent central, lighter colored vein that runs through the center of each leaf. Immature Cinnamon leaves are red in color before they mature to their bright green. Fresh Cinnamon leaves are fragrant and give off a lighter cinnamon smell and taste than cinnamon bark when used in teas or cooking. When eaten they have a hot, pungent taste. Cinnamon leaves are commonly pruned from the trees and left to dry for several days before being processed for Cinnamon leaf oil. Dried Cinnamon leaves have a matte finish and become olive in color and resemble bay leaves.
Cinnamon leaves are available year-round.
Cinnamon leaves, botanically known as Cinnamonum verum, is a member of the Lauraceae family. Cinnamon leaves can be used for culinary as well as medicinal purposes. Historically, the leaves were used for medicinal purposes. When used for medicinal or aromatherapy purposes, the leaf is usually distilled into an oil. Because it is not as refined as the oil of the cinnamon bark, most will tell you to use it topically. The leaf oil has a powerful, spicy aroma with strong notes of clove and citrus. Cinnamon leaves are also known as Indian bay leaf, Cassia leaf, or Tej Patta.
Cinnamon leaf oil contains eugenol, which may help with gastrointestinal problems, from stomach aches to nausea and diarrhea. Cinnamon leaf oil also has high concentrations of cinnameldehyde, a natural pain reliever with anti-inflammatory properties. It is used to relieve symptoms of arthritis or joint swelling. Cinnameldehyde may also be beneficial to those with diabetes, as it has a positive effect on the metabolism of glucose. Like the bark oil, the leaf oil has germicidal, antiseptic, antifungal and antimicrobial properties.
Cinnamon leaves are used to flavor stews, pilafs and curries. It is also used as a flavoring agent for baked goods and desserts. The leaves are most commonly used in their dried state, and removed before consuming. The other primary use for the leaves is volatile, or essential oils. Once extracted, Cinnamon leaf oil has a musky and spicy scent, and a light yellow tinge that distinguishes it from the red-brown color of cinnamon bark oil. Dried Cinnamon leaves can be substituted for bay leaves in many recipes, and pair well with cloves, green cardamom and black pepper. Cinnamon leaves are dried for preservation and can be stored for up to six months in an airtight container.
Cinnamon in general is a treasured spice and was used in religious ceremonies from Egypt to Europe. In the Seychelles, for instance, the leaf is used to flavor traditional chicken curries.
The history of Cinnamon stretches back to ancient Egypt where it was used for medicinal and embalming purposes. It was used as incense as well. It is said to originate from Sri Lanka, and the Malabar coast of India. It is also found in Madagascar, Comoros Islands, Burma, South America and the West Indies. Cinnamon was so precious at one point in history that it was considered more valuable than gold. The Arabs are said to have had a stronghold on the Cinnamon trade as early as 1500 B.C. Then, they distributed the spice to Babylon, Egypt and Rome. Since then, the use of Cinnamon has been embraced by many cultures and has a warming, stimulating effect on the body and the mind. There are over 100 varieties of Cinnamonum verum or "true cinnamon" with two varieties being the most widely consumed: Ceylon cinnamon and Chinese cinnamon.
Recipes that include Cinnamon Leaves. One is easiest, three is harder.
|NY Times||Cinnamon Lamb Curry|