Organic Ground Nutmeg
The word for nutmeg comes from the Latin "nux" and "muscat" meaning nut and musky, respectively. The scientific name is Myristica fragrans of the Myristicaceae family. The tree that gives us nutmeg also gives us another spice, mace. Mace is the red, lacy tendrils that are wrapped around the nutmeg, which is a seed inside of a fruit that grows on the tree. They are both revealed when the fruit of the tree is ripe, and splits open naturally.
Nutmeg has an essential oil content of 6.5% to 16% and it is made up of mostly sabinene.
Nutmeg may also be called jouz atib in Arabic, jo tou kuo in Mandarin, noix de muscade in French, muskat in German, jaiphal in Hindi, natumegu in Japanese, noz moscada in Portuguese, muskatniy orekh in Russian, and nuez moscada in Spanish. It is referred to as the Indian nut in European languages.
The first written record of nutmeg comes from Constantinople, in 540 A.D. Romans used nutmeg as incense and it was also used in sachets, or small bags that acted as perfume for unpleasant smells. These sachets would be carried around in pockets or sometimes even sewn into clothes. They would also use nutmeg to fumigate their streets, leaving them both fresher smelling and a little bit more sanitary. The eugenol in nutmeg has antibacterial properties.
During the Middle Ages, Arab spice traders would keep the location of their nutmeg sources very obscure to keep control over the prices. People of this time, particularly fashionable Europeans, carried their own graters and nutmegs as a status symbol.
The islands where nutmeg was grown was conquered in the 1500s by the Portuguese, who then tried to keep the growth of nutmeg to two islands The Dutch were part of these shenanigans, and eventually they became the sole owners of the nutmeg trade industry.
There were no smartphones or hoverboards in the 1600s, but there was nutmeg, which was close enough in terms of hype. Nutmeg was very rare upon discovery and managed to maintain its scarcity thanks to some sly businessmen. To keep prices high, the Dutch would intentionally destroy portions of their crops, much like they did with cloves. The British had control over a few nutmeg trees that the Dutch wanted, so they decided they would trade their territory (modern day Manhattan) for control of the British nutmeg trees. The appeal to the wealthy was outrageous and everyone needed to have the exotic spice at their table.
Eventually, nutmeg seeds were stolen and planted elsewhere. Luckily our friend Pierre Poivre (Peter Pepper) was able to steal nutmeg and cloves at the same time and distribute them to other tropical regions of the world. By the late 1700s, the trees could be found growing in Africa and parts of the Caribbean.
When it finally made its way to America in the 1800s, people were confused by nutmeg at first. As the story goes, some merchants were supposedly selling wood carved to look like nutmeg to unsuspecting victims. What happened was more than likely buyers being unaware that they had to grate nutmeg and probably thought they had to crack it like a walnut. When they couldn't crack it, they would dismiss it as being fake or wooden.
The myristicin in nutmeg has been said to cause hallucinations for some people, and was supposedly used when people wanted to get high in the middle ages. The danger only arises when a person consumes an enormous amount in a short period of time. After the hallucinations, people would usually suffer from some serious side effects, like stomach problems. Death was also a common side effect. Due to the hallucinations and awful physical side effects, nutmeg was banned in Saudi Arabia, where it remains illegal today.
Nutmeg is indigenous to the Spice Islands of Indonesia, though it is grown all over in places such as the Caribbean, South India, Sri Lanka, Sumatra, and Malaysia.
Nutmeg trees can grow up to 65 feet tall, and they thrive in tropical regions. These trees prefer rich, organic soil with texture. Medium density is the best. Humid, damp environments with good amounts of rainfall are key to growing productive trees.
The trees begin producing fruit roughly eight years after they have been planted, but their most productive age is 25. This tree can continue to give fruit for sixty years or more, but could stop producing after as few as thirty years. It all depends on the tree. Their fruits resemble apricots or small peaches, and one tree can produce about one thousand fruits annually. Each tree has a specific gender, but only the female trees produce fruit. The fruit starts out green and slowly ripens into a yellow color. Once ripe, the fruit naturally splits in two, revealing the nutmeg. The nutmeg is surrounded by a red flesh that is familiar to people by the name of mace. Some jams are made with the bitter fruit flesh, but the mace and nutmeg find food applications in human diets much more readily.
Nutmeg takes two months to dry inside its shell before it can be used. It must be crushed or ground before it can be consumed.
Indonesian nutmeg is thought to have a better flavor than Caribbean nutmeg.
Our organic ground nutmeg comes from Indonesia.
Traditionally we use nutmeg as a garnish for eggnog. Pair it with its flavor friends cinnamon and cloves and you have some great baking spices. There are other uses for nutmeg that Americans haven't begun to truly appreciate and those come in the form of savory dishes.
The traditional Scottish dish haggis is seasoned with both nutmeg and mace. This dish is made up of sheep's organs, onions, oatmeal, suet, and some other spices as well. It often appears gray and lumpy and it is stuffed inside a sausage casing. Haggis is the national dish of Scotland, and is hailed by food critics as gross looking but surprisingly delicious.
Use this in cakes, puddings, or fruit pies. When using this spice in your snickerdoodles, you will find they have an extra pleasant scent.
It tastes great on French toast, too and it complements the customary dish of syrup for dipping the toast in quite nicely.
Nutmeg is an ingredient in some béchamel sauce recipes. Béchamel sauce is a white sauce. The sauce can be used in lasagna or on other pasta dishes, as well as in seafood based dishes. Spinach also tastes excellent with this sauce. The Greek dish moussaka, which is like a casserole that is eggplant or potato based, requires both nutmeg and béchamel sauce. This dish is thought to be the epitome of Greek comfort food.
It pairs well with tomatoes, broccoli, onions, beans, and eggplant.
Nutmeg is excellent with sweet potatoes, pumpkin, or butternut squash. In South Africa, butternut squash is covered in nutmeg and cinnamon before it is wrapped in foil and then grilled. This is frequently served as a side dish for many meat barbeques.
Plantains can also be prepared with nutmeg. Cut both ends off the plantain and make a few cuts in the skin from end to end. Boil the plantains until the skin is starting to peel away from the fruit. Remove the plantains from the water, take off the peels, and then slice into coins. You can either spread on a baking sheet, dust with nutmeg and then bake them at 400 degrees until browned or you could apply the nutmeg and then fry them. Either option is fine. Both can be completed with some powdered sugar, added to taste.
Nutmeg combines wonderfully with cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, ginger, onion, black pepper, thyme, and vanilla.
Nutmeg is usually added at the end of recipes so the spice can retain its flavor. Nutmeg's essential oils break down quickly when exposed to heat, which diminishes flavor and aroma.
Ground nutmeg is excellent for use in a lot of recipes. It does lose its flavor over time because of the breakdown of essential oils, but storage in an airtight container will help it retain the freshest flavor for as long as possible. Keep this ground organic nutmeg in a cool, dark place. We do not recommend storing ground nutmeg in the freezer as the condensation that comes from thawing and then refreezing can diminish the flavor and aroma.
Whole nutmeg, which we do have a conventional version of, can be stored the same way. It does retain its scent and flavor for a few months longer than ground nutmeg would.
Nutmeg can taste piney, spicy, sweet, and slightly bitter or nutty. At times you will taste hints of clove.
Nutmeg and mace are similar in flavor, with nutmeg being slightly sweeter. Ground mace can be used as a substitute for nutmeg if it's all you have on hand. This can be used in a 1:1 ratio.
2-3 teaspoons of ground nutmeg are about equal to one whole nutmeg.
Serving Size1 tsp
Amount Per Serving
% Daily Value*