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Edibles

How to grow nutmeg and mace

Marianne Cannon

Marianne Cannon

September 11, 2013

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.

Nutmeg and mace Photo de-Bild-Muskatnuss

Nutmeg and mace Photo de-Bild-Muskatnuss

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.┬áMace 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.

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John Schofield
John Schofield
5 years ago

Hi Marianne. Does mace only grow with mystrica fragrans or does it grow with any other nutmeg varieties?

Catherine Stewart
Admin
5 years ago
Reply to  John Schofield

Hi John – my research indicates that there are 150 species in the Myristica genus. 2 other species of Myristica that are grown to produce a type of nutmeg also have an aril around the seed like that of Myristica fragrans. Myristica malabarica has a yellow laciniate (segmented) aril (you can see a photo on Page 3 of this document). Myristica argentea (Papuan nutmeg) also has a spicy-flavoured aril. However they both seem to be used more often as an adulterant of true mace, rather than for their own flavour qualities.