is the seed of an apricot-like fruit of the nutmeg tree and mace is
its arillus, a thin leathery tissue between the stone and the pulp.
Both spices are strongly aromatic, resinous and warm in taste. Mace
is generally said to have a finer aroma than nutmeg, but the difference
is small. Nutmeg quickly loses its fragrace when ground. Naturally,
nutmeg is limited to the Banda Islands, a tiny archipelago in Eastern
Indonesia (Moluccas). Main producing countries today are Indonesia
(East Indian Nutmeg) and Grenada (West Indian Nutmeg); the latter
is regarded as inferior. In many European countries, the name of nutmeg
derives from Latin nux muscatus "musky nut; moschate nut"; the Middle
English form is notemugge. Mace goes back to Greek makir, which was
used to denote an oriental spice, though it is not clear whether this
was identical to mace.
spices have been appreciated since Roman times. Because of its very
limited geographical distribution, nutmeg and mace became known in
Europe comparatively late (11th century). Although nutmeg was available
in Europe since the 13th century, significant trade started not before
the 16.th century, when Portuguese ships sailed to India and further,
to the famed spice islands (Moluccas). During the 17th century, the
Dutch succeeded in monopolizing the nutmeg trade, as they did with
cloves. This situation changed only in the 18.th century, when the
Frenchman Pierre Poivre succeeded in smuggling nutmeg trees from the
Bandas to Mauritius and thereby broke the Dutch monopoly. The British
East India Company introduced this tree to Penang, Singapore, India,
Sri Lanka and the West Indies.
nutmeg tree is a large evergreen native to the Banda Islands in the
Moluccas and grows to a height of about 18 m. It produces fruits fifteen
to twenty years after planting. The fruit of nutmeg tree, which is
similar in colour and size to apricot, splits when ripe revealing
the brilliant red arils encasing the brown nut. The red arils on drying
become orange in colour and are the mace of commerce. The nut is also
dried until the kernel inside rattles.
Nutmeg contains about 10% essential oil, which is mostly composed
of terpene hydrocarbons (pinenes, camphene, p-cymene, sabinene, phellandrene,
terpinene, limonene, myrcene, together 60 to 90%), terpene derivatives
(linalool, geraniol, terpineol, together 5 to 15%) and phenylpropanes
(myristicine, elemicine, safrol, together 2 to 20%). Of the latter
group, myristicine (methoxy-safrol) is responsible for the hallucinogenic
effect of large nutmeg dosages (typically, one or more nuts). Oil
of mace (up to 12% in the spice) contains the same aroma components
in slightly different amounts.
is used to flavour milk-based sauces and is widely used in processed
meats. It is also added sparingly to delicate soups and sauces with
fish or seafood. Pickles or chutneys may be seasoned with mace. Nutmeg
is a traditional flavouring for cakes, gingerbreads, biscuits and
fruit or milk puddings. Today, nutmeg's popularity has shrunken and
the spice is less used, still most in Arab countries, Iran and Northern
India, where both nutmeg and mace appear in delicately-flavoured meat
Western cuisine, nutmeg and mace are more popular for cakes, crackers
and stewed fruits; nutmeg is sometimes used to flavour cheese. The
combination of spinach with nutmeg is somewhat a classic, especially
for Italian stuffed noodles. The greatest lovers of nutmeg in today's
Europe, though, are the Dutch. They use it for cabbage, potato and
other vegetables, but also for meat, soups, stews and sauces. Since
quite a large fraction of nutmeg is today grown in Grenada, nutmeg
has entered several Caribbean cuisines. In Grenada, it's omnipresent,
the locals even eating nutmeg-flavoured ice cream! Nutmeg is an optional
ingredient in a famous Caribbean spice paste, Jamaican jerk.
and other use
Indonesia, the (woody and very sour) pulp is used to make a delicious
jam with fine nutmeg aroma. In Malaysia the fleshy outer husk is crystallized
or pickled and then sold as a delicious snack.Nutmeg is a narcotic
in excess quantities. It is astringent, a stimulant and an aphrodisiac.
Nutmeg oil is used in perfumes and ointments.