Will the real Cinnamon please stand up... (off-topic)

Mark McDonough antennaria@charter.net
Wed, 02 Dec 2009 16:48:13 PST
Thanks go to Pamela Slate for following up with Penzeys, the list of species for each of the 4 cinnamon types is good to know.

Lauw de Jager wrote:  "Has cinnamon  anything to do with bulbs, rhizomes or tubers?"

I think much can be gleaned from this discussion.

Those who grow bulbs, rhizomes and tubers, such as PBS members, are diligent about accurate latin botanical names on plants, to rule out ambiguity that ensues when using common names.  The "cinnamon" corollary is an example of where same concerns spill over into other aspects of life, for which we can make better decisions about how to use substances and compounds derived from *specific* plant species.   If one wants to explore the use of "cinnamon" as a fungicide on bulbs, this discussion illustrates how we first need to know more about the subject "cinnamon" species.  I  would welcome the use of cinnamon as a fungicide on bulbs versus something like Captan, as a cheaper and most likely eco-friendlier way of treating bulbs, if indeed it works, and depending on which Cinnamomum species is employed.

Some of the more recent messages on this topic, substantiate expectations that specific species within a genus probably have varying amounts of compounds within them, or have unique compounds not found in other species.  It was mentioned that true Ceylon cinnamon has negligible amounts of coumarin  (moderately toxic component of some Cinnamomum sp), and others have higher amounts.  Google "coumarin" to enjoy wandering down another information path... learn about how Warfarin and Chamomile are connected to courmarin, so much to know!  This item about coumarin caught my attention: "Although only somewhat dangerous to humans, coumarin is a potent rodenticide: rats and other rodents largely metabolize it to 3,4-coumarin epoxide, a toxic compound that can cause internal hemorrhage and death".  So I wonder, should I try sprinkling the "Cassia style" of cinnamon around small bulbs for which I worry about rodent predation.

This whole discussion can serve as a corollary to geophytic plant genera such as members of the Zingerberaceae, or most certainly with the most important genus of bulbous plants in agricultural terms; namely Allium.  Species of Allium have been cultivated for thousands of years, and are among the most important plant crops in the world, when one considers true onions, garlic, leeks, scallions, and chives.  There is an enormous amount of chemical research done on onions, garlic and other allium species, because they are incredibly rich in complex compounds and substances with a wide range of applications.  Here again, it is important to be clear about what Allium species, or even what edible Onion cultivar one is interested in, to be sure about what properties are ascribed to that specific botanical entity.

There's a new book entitled "Garlic and Other Alliums - The Lore and the Science", which looks fascinating.  I would purchase it myself, given my devotion to the genus Allium, were it not for my current state of unemployment and watching every penny.  However, check out the book link, but more importantly check out the second link which is to an extensive Table of Contents in PDF format, that gives an idea of the scope of research conducted on this valuable genus. 

(watch for word-wrapping on these long URLs)



Mark McDonough
Massachusetts, near the New Hampshire border, USDA Zone 5

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