Thursday, December 11, 2008

Spices of the Season: Nutmeg/Mace

Nutmeg is probably one of my favorite spices of the season. It provides such a pleasant flavor, adding just enough seasoning without being too hot and zippy. Both mace and nutmeg come from the same plant which grows in Grenada, and the Spice Islands. This botanical drawing illustrates the complexities of the fruit. There is a fleshy layer on the outside which is used to make a delicious jelly followed by the tentacle-like mace layer which is on the outside of the thin shell which contains the nutmeg. Three layers to reach the nut! When fresh, the mace layer is a brilliant scarlet red. Over a period of months it changes to the more familiar orange color. For every pound of nutmeg, the same tree produces only about 15% in weight of mace. Maybe that is why the Portuguese; who once controlled the spice trade, asked that more mace trees be planted than nutmeg! Like most spices, nutmeg or Myristica fragrans is more flavorful if you use the whole spice and grate it fresh as you need it. Mace is a more delicate flavor best used in cakes or sweet puddings or even on mashed potatoes and turnips. Nutmeg is lovely on pumpkin pie or apple pie or even grated on vanilla ice cream.

Susanna, our herbalist, shared the above information. However, to add to the nutmeg story, Nancy would like to share that when The Rosemary House first opened, 40 years ago, she can remember selling a cupful of nutmegs for 50 cents. Now, in 2008, we are still selling nutmegs, but they are 25 cents a piece. Still seems a bargain!

Tomorrows post will feature nutmeg graters, both old and new. Check back!

1 comment:

La Tea Dah said...

I can just about smell the nutmeg from here! Lovely collection -- thank you for sharing with your readers. I enjoyed your post.

LaTeaDah (sitting cozy with a rosemary shawl)