Did you know that nutmeg produces not one spice, but two? And that right up until the 19th century, the only place that nutmeg grew was on the isolated Banda Islands in Indonesia? With cloves, it also provided the huge wealth of the Dutch East India Company and was even involved in the most amazing land-deal swap in history between the English and the Dutch – a handful of Indonesian islands for Manhattan Island.
The nutmeg tree produces both nutmeg (the nut) and mace (the bright red aril around the outside of the seed). You can even eat the peach-sized fresh fruit, which is often pickled. Mace is usually used only in savoury cooking, while nutmeg is also used in sweet cooking like puddings and cakes. You can buy both ground nutmeg which lasts in freshness for about a year if it’s well sealed, or you can also grind it fresh using a small garlic grater.
The nutmeg tree only grows in truly tropical zones, including Indonesia, Malaysia and India. Listen to my fascinating discussion with Ian Hemphill from herbies.com.au about the history of these intriguing spices.