Monday, June 28, 2010

Cinnamon harvesting in Ceylon 1813

A marvelous description of the harvest of cinnamon from the book Oriental Commerce describes the twice a year barking, the rolling into 4 foot bundles and shipped amongst black pepper...

Oriental Commerce by William Milburn... of the East India Company. London: 1813 --

"The cinnamon tree, or Laurus Cinnamonum, is a species of laurel. The cinnamon of Ceylon, however, is greatly improved by cultivation; and that which is most highly prized, is stripped from shoots of young trees.

Cinnamon is barked in the woods at two different seasons of the year: the first is termed the grand harvest, and lasts from April to August; the second is the small harvest, and lasts from November to January.
The barking is performed in the following manner: A good cinnamon-tree is looked out for, and chosen by the leaves, and other characteristics. Those branches which are three years old, are lopped off with a common crooked pruning knife, from which the outside pellicle of the bark is scraped off; the twigs are then ripped up long ways with the point of a knife, and the bark gradually loosened till it can be entirely taken off. The smaller tubes or quills of it are inserted into the larger, and thus spread out to dry, when the bark rolls itself up still closer together, and is then tied into bundles, and finally carried off:

each bundle is then bound round with rattans, and packed up, after having previously undergone an examination by tasting and chewing, which is a very troublesome and disagreeable office: it is but seldom a person is able to hold out two or three days successively, as the cinnamon deprives the tongue and lips of all the mucus with which they are covered.
Each bundle is then made nearly the length of four feet, and is weighed off to 88 lbs. subsequently to its being well secured. It is sewed in double gunnies, and when stowed in the ship's hold, loose black pepper is sprinkled over the bales, to fill up every hole and interstice, by which means the cinnamon is preserved in its original goodness.

The first and best sort of cinnamon, which is peculiar to the island, is called by the natives rasse coronde, or sharp sweet cinnamon. It is this choice sort which is exported yearly by the East India Company, by whom it has been prohibited under severe penalties, that any other sort should be mixed with it."

Images from : A Curious Herbal by Elizabeth Blackwell, 1837. Around the world with eyes wide open... by H. Allen Tupper. NY: 1898

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