Nutmeg & Mace

What are Nutmeg and Mace?

Nutmeg and Mace are two spices from the same plant. They share a woody sweet flavour with aromatic notes. Nutmeg is a quintessential Autumn and Winter flavour being used for the festive drink eggnog and being a major flavour in pumpkin pie and apple pie. It is also commonly used in South Asian and Caribbean cuisines. 

Nutmeg and mace blades

What do Nutmeg and Mace taste like?

Nutmeg and mace share the same flavour, nutmeg being slightly sweeter and mace having more delicate aromatic notes. The overall profile is warming (neither spicy nor sweet) with an aromatic woody flavour and afternotes of menthol.

Mace vs Nutmeg

So what is the difference between Nutmeg and Mace? Both mace and nutmeg come from the same plant & tree Myristica fragrans. It is a large broad-leaved tree which originated in Indonesia and is now grown across the tropics. Like many other spices, Nutmeg is the dried seed of the Myristica tree, the seeds are large with a ridged surface. The seed is encapsulated in a hard outer shell which needs to be removed before using. Mace however is from a less utilised part of the plant, the seed aril. The aril is a seed covering which grows within the fruit. The nutmeg seed aril is bright red when fresh and dries to a burnished orange colour, it has a more delicate flavour which holds up less well to intense cooking than its seed based counterpart. These dried arils are known as blades of mace.

What are mace and nutmeg used for?

Nutmeg is a powerful and versatile spice which is best known for its use in sweets and baked treats. It is also commonly used in South Asian and Caribbean cooking. It’s sweetness makes it a perfect flavouring for pies and pastries, the most famous being the American classic pumpkin pie. Nutmeg’s penetrating flavour helps it cut through otherwise heavy dishes, a popular example is grating whole nutmeg into rich macaroni cheese or other hearty pasta dishes. Nutmeg is also a common flavouring in festive drinks such as eggnog and mulled wine and cider.

Mace is less widely used than nutmeg but it’s more delicate flavour can be used in much the same way, providing a less pungent alternative to the same dishes. Whole mace blades can be used to infuse their flavour over longer cook times, similarly to a bay leaf. Mace is a common component of spice blends like curry powders and ras el hanout. 

Nutmeg and Mace recipes

Boston baked beans with bacon recipe

Czech Christmas Hoska Recipe

Pumpkin Cheesecake II Recipe 

Mac and cheese recipe

Names and Origins

The name Myristica fragrans roughly translates as “anointing fragrance”, which relates to its early use as perfume and ritual fragrance. Nutmeg originated from the Banda islands of Indonesia and has been used since at least 1000 BCE, the islands were the only source of nutmeg for hundreds of years. By the 6th century BC trade had transported the nutmeg plant to mainland Asia where it is still grown today. The Banda islands were fought over violently in the mid centuries, with European colonial forces from Portugal and the Netherlands fighting the native bandanese for control over the nutmeg trade. 

Following the British “invasion of the Spice islands” in 1810, nutmeg plants and soils were uprooted and transported across the British empire which has led to its widespread cultivation in many former parts of the British empire.

Health Effects

Like many other spices there are myriad claims of nutmeg being an effective folk medicine, however none of these have been conclusively proven. Nutmeg is safe to consume as a spice in small amounts but overconsumption can have negative side effects like delerium, confusion and nausea. 

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