A native to Banda Islands, in the Moluccas of Indonesia or Spice Islands, and the Malay Archipelago, nutmeg is believed to be in existence as early as during the first century. It was only towards the turn of the 7th century when the Arabs introduced nutmeg to Europe through the Venetians. In the late 1400s when the Portuguese toured the Cape of Good Hope in Africa, they discovered Banda Islands and took control over the spice trade.
The English finally succeeded in conquering the Run Island, which is now known as the Nutmeg Island, and planted nutmeg trees in Zanzibar and Grenada also. The British East Company can be credited with introducing nutmeg to Penang, Singapore, India, Sri Lanka and the West Indies. Later, they spread the cultivation of nutmeg to other East Indian islands and then to the Caribbean. Today, Indonesia and Grenada are the leading producers and exporters of nutmeg, followed by India, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka and Caribbean Islands.
Nutmeg tree yields up to three times in a season. Once harvested from the tree, its outer coat or husk is removed and discarded. Just underneath the tough husk is the golden-brown color aril, known as “mace,” firmly enveloping around the nutmeg kernel. Mace is gently peeled off from the kernel surface, flattened into strips, dried, and sold either as whole (blades) or finely ground.
Nutmeg kernel is then dried under the sun for several days to weeks. At larger commercial set-ups, this process is accomplished rather more rapidly over a hot drier machine until the whole nutmeg rattles inside the shell.
Nutmeg and mace spice contains many plant-derived chemical compounds that are known to have been anti-oxidant, disease preventing, and health promoting properties.
The active principles in nutmeg have many therapeutic applications in many traditional medicines as anti-fungal, anti-depressant, aphrodisiac, digestive, and carminative functions.
This spice is a good source of minerals like copper, potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, zinc and magnesium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps control heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese and copper are used by the body as co-factors for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Iron is essential for red blood cell production and as a co-factor for cytochrome oxidases enzymes.
It is also rich in many vital B-complex vitamins, including vitamin C, folic acid, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin A and many flavonoid anti-oxidants like beta-carotene and cryptoxanthin that are essential for optimum health.
HOW TO STORE
The freshness can be maintained longer if stored in an airtight container. Keep away from heat, moisture, and direct sunlight. These elements hasten the loss of flavor and aroma. Avoid storing over the stove, dishwasher, sink or near a window. Should not be stored in the freezer. Freezing does not extend the shelf life of regularly used dried spices. If stored in the freezer, and repeatedly removed for use, condensation will form in the container and accelerate loss of flavor and aroma.
HOW TO PREPARE
Many chefs prefer freshly ground nutmeg directly from the seed.
MATCHES WELL WITH
Broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, cheese, custards, eggs, fruits, lamb, pasta, potatoes, pumpkin, raisins, ricotta cheese, rice, sausages, spinach, squash, stuffings, veal