December 28, 2021 2 min read
Nutmeg is a spice that is derived from the seed of the nutmeg tree. The nutmeg tree is native to the Indonesian Banda Islands but can also be found growing in some Caribbean locations like Grenada. Harvesting nutmeg is a time-consuming endeavor since the initial harvest of nutmeg trees can take as long as seven to nine years after plantation and trees reach their full potential after twenty years. This makes harvesting nutmeg one of the more costly options among other spices. The nutmeg tree is also the only tropical tree that yields two different spices. While nutmeg is the actual seed of the plant, mace is the dried lacy covering of the seed. In addition, other products such as essential oils and nutmeg butter are also extracted from the tree. Nutmeg butter is a semi-solid product that carries the taste and smell of nutmeg.
The use of nutmeg is not merely restricted to flavor and aroma enhancement of dishes but it has also been used as a remedy for different ailments while also improving health in general. Nutmeg offers nutritional value in terms of dietary fiber, and some mineral content such as thiamin, manganese, folate, magnesium, and copper. Some of its healing properties in traditional medicine include pain relief, digestive health, detoxification, better oral health, and improved skin health.
To store powdered nutmeg, it should be kept in an airtight container away from moisture, heat, and direct sunlight. Exposure to any of these elements may quicken the loss of aroma and flavor. Like many other spices, it is not recommended to store nutmeg in the freezer as freezing is not helpful in extending the shelf life of often used dried spices.
Nutmeg can be purchased whole or in powdered form but is mostly used in powdered form when added to dishes. Some people prefer buying the whole seed and then grinding it fresh before adding it to a recipe for maximum flavor and taste. It is also easier to store whole nutmeg seeds as compared to ground nutmeg as the flavor may deteriorate quickly. Whole nuts will keep longer and may be grated as needed. Nutmeg for culinary uses Nutmeg has a spicy yet warm flavor and aroma that goes well with both sweet and savory dishes. Many people associate its use with sweet, spicy dishes such as puddings, pies, custards along with cookies and spice cakes. It is a popular addition to soufflés and cheese sauces and soups. On the beverage front, nutmeg is a mandatory addition to eggnog and is used in various mulled wines and punches.
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