Spice hunt: Nutmeg

Posted by Paula on

Spice hunt: Nutmeg

Nutmeg is a mild spice typically used in baking for its warm, nutty and slightly sweet flavor. Because of its popularity, it can be used in many different cuisines and applications.

There’s more to this spice than meets the eye. Do you know that nutmeg was one of the most expensive spices in Medieval Europe? The reason was that it came all the way from the other side of the world. I’ve learned to appreciate and put more value on this particular spice as it actually takes seven to nine years to harvest this spice from the day it was planted, and 20 long years for the tree to get into full production.

Nutmeg is the brown seed found in the inner part of the evergreen tree from the Molucca Island called Myristica fragrans. It is a two-in-one spice-bearing tree as the outer membrane produces another spice called mace. However, compared to mace, the nutmeg inside is sweeter and more pungent. It is commonly grown in Indonesia, Grenada and the West Indies.This spice is usually sold ground or whole with a label specifying its source if it is from East India or West India.

How to use nutmeg in the kitchen

Here are some ways you can use nutmeg to make your everyday meals even better.

  • Nutmeg can be used as a preservative in meats, sausages, and preserves.
  • It makes a flavorful appetizer soup with chicken, tomatoes, black beans and split pea.
  • It mixes well with cheese and is usually found in cheese sauces and soufflés.
  • In Italy and the Netherlands, nutmeg is normally added in stews and puddings.
  • Nutmeg complements well with eggplant, spinach, broccoli, cabbage, onions, beans, sweet potatoes, carrots, red potatoes, cauliflower, winter squash, and pumpkin.
  • Ground nutmeg makes fruits visually appealing and adds flavor to cooked or raw bananas, apple, pears, nectarines, peaches, mango or pineapple.
  • Ground nutmeg is further used on sweet breads, fruit pies, cakes, cookies, and muffins. It also goes well as a topping for eggnog, custard, and whipped cream.
  • Nutmeg also goes well with drinks. A little sprinkle of nutmeg, powdered cocoa and cinnamon may give an extra kick to your hot chocolate, coffee, cider, eggnog, hot tea or coffee.

What goes well with nutmeg and what can be used as a substitute?

Nutmeg can be used together with other spices like ginger, cinnamon, and cloves. In case nutmeg is not available, mace would be a good substitute for it although it may have a stronger flavor. Other nutmeg substitutes are cinnamon, ground clove, ginger, and allspice.

Nutmeg tips and tricks

Storage of nutmeg would require a dry, cool and dark place. You can use airtight containers and keep it away from sunlight. The whole nuts are said to last longer and do not lose its flavor quickly as compared to the ground nutmeg.

This spice should also be used in little portions as it can be poisonous when consumed in large quantities, say about 1 to 3 whole nutmegs. The reason for this is that the myristicin narcotic content of the nutmeg has a toxic side effect which may cause nausea, hallucinations, vomiting and at times collapse of the circulatory system.

To get a full experience of this spice, you may check out these delicious nutmeg recipes.

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