This dried, egg-shaped seed is steeped in history, drama and mystique.
By
The Roo Sisters

1 Aug 2013 - 8:43 PM  UPDATED 27 May 2015 - 4:03 PM

Origins

The highly perfumed dried seed from the evergreen tree Myristica fragrans, nutmeg is steeped in history, drama and mystique. The egg-shaped “nut”, contained in a peach-like fruit, was coveted by Europeans for use in food and medicine for centuries, but the fruit trees were unique to Indonesia’s Banda Islands and traders kept the source of the deliciously warm, fragrant spice a secret. Nutmeg became such a valuable commodity that in the 17th century it was the subject of bloody battles between the English and Dutch, the latter eventually establishing plantations on the Banda Islands after murdering or enslaving the inhabitants.

By the time the Dutch lost control of the Spice Islands (the Moluccas) in World War II, Myristica fragrans had been transplanted to numerous other countries, including Grenada. So-called “liquid gold” is the Caribbean island’s primary export and even appears on the national flag.

Nutmeg’s slightly less-sweet sister, mace, tends to be used only in savoury dishes. It’s made from the red, web-like covering of the nut (the aril), making nutmeg the only tropical plant that yields multiple spices.

 

Use nutmeg in ...

Sweet or savoury dishes, ground or preferably freshly grated. Nutmeg is ubiquitous in Grenadian cooking, including in the stew Oil Down (featuring coconut milk and salted meat) and soup Mannish Waters. (These dishes may traditionally only be served to men: they are imbued with nutmeg and, therefore, thought to be aphrodisiacs.) In the West, it’s been a winter favourite for centuries: sprinkled over hot milk, added to béchamel sauce or mulled wine, and used to spice up brussels sprouts, potatoes, cakes and desserts, especially custard. Americans like it in their iconic pumpkin pie, while it also features in Indian and Middle Eastern cooking, including in “Lebanese 7-Spice”. In Asian countries, such as Malaysia and the world’s biggest nutmeg exporter, Indonesia, it’s widely used in curries, soups, satays, rice dishes and desserts.

 

Nutmeg goes with ...

Egg, milk, chocolate, potato, pumpkin, cauliflower, cabbage, spinach, honey, banana, apple, orange, peaches, chicken, lamb, veal, pork, red wine, rum.