Mace blades are the weirdest looking spice in the whole world. These freaky little things are intimately linked to nutmeg, as they both come from the same plant. Mace is the lacy tendrils of red wrapped around the nutmeg seed, which comes from the plant Myristica fragrans of the Myristicaceae family. Not only is it bizarre looking, but it also has a bizarrely good flavor.
Mace has an essential oil content of 7%-14% which is mostly made up of monoterpenes.
Mace is called "basbasa" in Arabic, "dau kuo shu" in Mandarin, "fleur de muscade" in French, "muskatblute" in German, "javitri" in Hindi, "mesu" in Japanese, "macis" in Portuguese, "sushonaya shelukha" in Russian, and "macia" or "maci" in Spanish.
Roman author Pliny mentioned the nutmeg tree in his writings, which date back to the first century. He described nutmeg trees as being trees bearing nuts with two flavors.
Mace became popular in Europe as a flavoring agent for beers after it was brought in by Arab traders in the eleventh century. If you would have visited France, Sweden, or Germany at this time, you would have found people calling mace "flower of nutmeg" because of its appearance of a wilted flower resting over the nutmeg seed.
The peak of mace's popularity came during the seventeenth century, in which the Dutch took control of and monopolized the nutmeg and mace trade, essentially squelching all others who tried to trade or sell these spices. It was just a matter of skill that Pierre Poivre, which translates directly to Peter Pepper, was able to steal some seeds from the Dutch and by the end of the 18th century, nutmeg trees were seen growing all over the Caribbean. Without Poivre's dedication to theft, the spice world would probably be a very different place. The Dutch continued to maintain control of the Spice Islands, where most of the nutmeg and mace were grown until after WWII.
Nutmeg was a true culinary star in history, but mace never gained quite the same popularity. Nutmeg is easy to carry around as a status symbol, but mace blades are awkwardly shaped and don't fit inside of one's pocket easily. Still, mace did have its moment, especially in India. Traditionally, Indians would chew on mace to prevent bad breath and soothe upset stomachs. They believed that mace could help with malaria if it was ingested during the early stages.
Despite what some believe, this mace is not the kind that can be sprayed at assailants. That mace was named after the medieval bludgeoning tool, this is a humble spice with an unfortunately identical moniker.
Mace comes from the same plant as nutmeg, and both are indigenous to the Spice Islands of Indonesia. The plant we harvest mace from, the nutmeg tree, is also grown in the Caribbean, South India, Sri Lanka, Sumatra, and Malaysia. These trees positively thrive in tropical locations, growing up to 65 feet tall. They prefer a rich soil with a lot of organic material, and a lot of rainfall. The fruits of the nutmeg tree are initially green but ripen into a yellow peach like orb that splits open to reveal its mace covered seed inside. Mace is the waxy red tendrils that are found wrapped around the seed of the nutmeg fruit.
Roughly eight years after they have been planted, nutmeg trees will begin to produce fruit. Their most productive age is about 25, and after that their productivity begins to wane and they can stop producing fruit all together as young as thirty years old. Some trees will produce for longer, up to sixty years total, but it is all about the luck of the draw and the individual tree. One tree can produce over a thousand fruits annually.
Mace blades are removed from nutmeg seeds by hand. The blades are dried after the harvest and their vibrant red color fades into an orange brown or sometimes a brick red color. They do maintain some of their shininess. Mace blades can vary in length, but are frequently just about 4 cm long.
Indonesian mace is thought to have the most delicious flavor of all the mace available on the market.
Our mace blades come from Indonesia.
Mace is usually found in savory cooking. Whole mace blades are often used to add flavor to soups and stews, but much like bay leaves they are removed from the dish before serving.
Mace is a great for cream-based dishes and in sweets. It has an almost peppery flavor that lends a heat burst to these typically mellow foods. In American cooking especially, you will find mace as a flavor in things like cakes and pie fillings. In commercial production, mace is used in hot dogs, donuts, pickles, preserves, ice cream, soup mixes, poultry flavor boosters, and frostings.
In Middle Eastern cooking, mace and nutmeg are often combined. In Arabic cuisine, mace is added to mutton and lamb-based dishes. Popular spice blends including ras el hanout and baharat have it as a key ingredient, though it is in its ground form that it makes an appearance in these blends.
Mace works well with cabbage, carrots, cheese, chicken, eggs, seafood, potatoes, veal, and spinach.
Some spices that compliment mace nicely are cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, ginger, paprika, and thyme.
Mace is especially lovely with fruit. Pears, apples, and other fruits with light colored flesh go extremely well with the sweet, warm flavor of mace blades.
Our Mace is extremely flavorful, so we suggest using a little at a time and adding more as you deem necessary.
You can find ground mace quite easily, though as with many spices, we suggest buying the whole mace blades and grinding them as needed to keep their flavor's integrity at its highest. Mace does keep its flavor better than nutmeg does after it has been ground.
Mace blades can be kept for an exceptionally long time if they are stored in an airtight container, though we give them a shelf life of about a year. It is time to dispose of your mace blades when they offer no resistance to being broken. As mace blades age, they become more brittle as they lose their oils. Mace blades are still good to use and considered fresh if when you push on them with a fingernail, they give way to a little bit of oil. They can be ground up with a mortar and pestle, or a grinder, though some chefs think that putting mace through a grinder clogs it up with the oils. It just depends on what kind of grinder you have.
Mace blades give a nice warmth and lemony sweetness to dishes. They are one of the few spices that can be added at the beginning of cooking to allow the flavor to bloom into the food.
Nutmeg and mace are frequently used interchangeably, though mace is lighter and lifts foods while nutmeg is a stronger flavor that enhances foods. Some cooks will use mace and nutmeg together as a sort of blend instead of using either one or the other.
Allspice might work in a pinch, but it has a much stronger flavor than mace or nutmeg.
Serving Size1 tsp
Amount Per Serving
% Daily Value*