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Vietnamese cinnamon

December 13, 2011

Previously we shared our experience from drinking tea based on bark of Thai cinnamon (Cinnamomum iners, Lauraceae). At Dokmai Garden here in Chiang Mai we also have Vietnamese cinnamon (Cinnamomum loureiroi syn. C. loureirii). Recently I learnt this is in fact the most valuable cinnamon, not the classical Ceylon cinnamon (C. verum syn. C. zeylanicum) of which we have a young specimen. The reason for this value is the high content of cinnamaldehyde or the ‘cinnamon flavour’. What about its properties as a spice? I save the experiments until we have new tropical gardening school students. It is much more fun to experiment with equally excited people, than to do it all alone.

The word ‘cinnamon’ is old, a Latinized form of the Greek ‘kinnamon’ which was derived from a Semitic language which in turn might be based on a Malayan word beyond the horizon of history. In Swedish we call the spice ‘kanel’, which is based on Latin ‘cannella’, meaning ‘small stick’ (‘canna’). How many members of the Cinnamomum genus are there? Mabberley’s plant book suggest some 250 species, of which at least 20 species grow in Thailand (Smitinand 2001).

I should also add that this tree is a superb ornamental. Its young foliage is pinkish red and the thick, evergreen, glossy leaves certainly adds beauty to your monsoon garden. Cinnamons are said to prefer some shade but we successfully grow all our cinnamons in full sun in fairly dry areas.

Text & Photo: Eric Danell

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